Quirky coach leads his girls team to `The Heart of the Game'

review B+

September 08, 2006|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,Sun Movie Critic

The Heart of the Game is a tribute to mental flexibility. Bill Resler, a tax-law professor who becomes the girls basketball coach at Seattle's Roosevelt High School, throws out the rulebook. He ignores offensive strategies and focuses on toughening and quickening his players, ridding them of any fear of physical contact and igniting their individual and team talents, quirks and spirit. This documentary (like the fact-based 2004 feature Miracle) demonstrates how powerful true sports stories can be when they delve into the mystery of leadership instead of falling back on nostalgia.

With his improbable dancing-bear appearance and knack for giving each new bunch of Roosevelt Roughriders a galvanizing theme - like "Pack of Wolves," with the motto, "Eat the Moose" - Resler ratchets up the team's fun quotient. But he also removes his players from any crippling gentility or clique-ishness. He creates and respects an "inner circle": a girls' assembly that convenes to wrestle problems to the ground without anyone's help.

The Heart of the Game (Miramax) A documentary by Ward Serrill. Rated PG-13. Time 98 minutes.

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