High-school big shots hold court

Review -- B

June 27, 2008|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,Sun movie critic

Call it Hoop Daydreams: a whiz-bang frolic through the lives and skills of eight high-school basketball players who dribble, pass and shoot their way into the ultimate city-park game.

In Gunnin' for That #1 Spot, Beastie Boys co-founder and director Adam Yauch brings a fan's delight to his footage as he follows their preparations for the "Elite 24" tournament at fabled Rucker Park in Harlem, N.Y., in 2006. He touches on the heady perils of early stardom and the existential pressures on young men pinning everything on round-ball prowess.

But this movie mostly celebrates its budding heroes' character and talent. They use their emotional roots to fuel their game, whether they come from struggling, gray Mid-Atlantic cities or swank, green Pacific Northwest neighborhoods, from single-parent homes or venerable sports clans.

You don't learn much about Baltimore's Donte Green beyond him being a local hero and a phenomenal ball player, but as he and others suit up in the Big City, you feel pride and admiration for all of them.

What makes the climactic game exhilarating is that our eight young champions are divided between two teams, and the lead swings back and forth between them until the final whistle. You leave parochial allegiances behind and revel in their sheer virtuosity as each player gets a chance to strut his stuff.

Yauch's use of soup-bowl lenses that can take in the whole court from one end and his fleet-fingered editing capture the exuberance of the big plays. And as the players earn their goofy Rucker Park nicknames - and each other's gritty respect - the movie becomes a true melting-pot jamboree.

The Summer Olympics may offer more intricate, arduous and high-stakes spectacles, but nothing will top the last half-hour of Gunnin' for That #1 Spot for adrenalized high spirits.


Gunnin' for That #1 Spot

(Oscilloscope) A documentary by Adam Yauch. Rated PG-13 for language. Time 90 minutes.

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