Although the basketball movie lacks the lengthy genre history of baseball movies, the sport’s growing popularity has led to a sharp rise in the number of films about it. Here’s a selected guide to basketball movies on video:
“Above the Rim” (1994): A poor kid having to choose between the hardships of going straight and the promises of criminality is a familiar subject in American movies. This gritty film takes that basic plot and sets it on the basketball courts of Harlem, with Duane Martin as the talented high school and playground star who dreams of the NBA but confronts harsh realities in the neighborhood. Rated R.
“The Air Up There” (1994): An Africanized version of the sports movie cliche: A bitter hero loses his moral compass but rediscovers his virtue while coaching an underdog team to victory. In this case, it’s Kevin Bacon as a college assistant coach who goes to a village in Kenya to recruit a potential star player. While there, he helps the village team defeat a team of bad guys and finds his lost personal integrity. A very obvious film - does anyone doubt who will win the big game? - but enjoyable for its locale, the enthusiasm of the players and its humor. Rated PG.
“Blue Chips” (1994): Nick Nolte stars as a Bobby Knight-type college basketball coach, complete with explosive language and behavior, caught between rich and unscrupulous alumni and his desire to recruit (and win) ethically. The on-court play is firstrate, thanks to such player/actors as Shaquille O’Neal, Anfernee Hardaway and Matt Nover. Rated PG-13.
“Hoosiers” (1986): Gene Hackman, as an exacting, knowledgeable coach with a scandal in his past, stars in this excellent look at smalltown high school basketball in the ‘50s in the basketball-crazy state of Indiana. While the movie is most notable as a character study, with sensational performances from Hackman and Dennis Hopper (as an alcoholic assistant coach), the details of Hackman’s training regimen and coaching style are also brilliantly conveyed. Rated PG.
“One on One” (1977): Robby Benson, as a small-town high school basketball star having trouble adjusting to the big-time college sport, doesn’t cut it. He’s wooden as an actor and inadequate as an athlete. Rated PG.
fls”Teen Wolf” (1985):fls Michael J. Fox, a charming actor but burdened by his Mugsy Bogues body as a high school basketball player, makes the most of his lighthearted role. When he starts to turn into a werewolf, his hoops prowess expands along with his fingernails. Silly stuff, but fun. Rated PG.
“White Men Can’t Jump” (1992): The plot is virtually non-existent, but the playing of Wesley Snipes and especially Woody Harrelson, as the dorky-looking guy who hustles his way into money-making playground games, hits nothing but net. Various subplots about Rosie Perez, as Harrelson’s girlfriend who dreams of getting on “Jeopardy,” and Tyra Ferrell, as Snipes’ longsuffering wife, seem extraneous to the vervefilled scenes on playground courts in Venice and other Los Angeles-area locales. Rated R.
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