What You need To know: Disney Plus, English Audio Description, Provided By international Digital Center
What Is It About?: Based on the true story of brothers who use their determination to make something of themselves by getting to play professional basketball. But first, they must overcome living with their family in Greece, a country where they live illegally after fleeing their home in Africa looking for a safer and better life.
What Works: The second basketball drama I’ve seen this month, Rise has less to do with hustle, and more to do with King Richard, at least structurally. The film does a better job of balancing the same family dynamic, with a father working hard for his family, seeing that his sons have talent in something they want to pursue, and him finding an outlet for them to pursue their shot at the highest level. Of course, Giannis ended up a league MVP so, he reached the top.
But unlike King Richard, which centered far too much on Will Smith, this film offers a much more balanced cast dynamic between the kids and parents, as well as husband and wife. The mom spends almost as much time on screen as the dad, maybe a little less. She’s a cheerleader for her kids and is instrumental in getting them to play basketball. Their dad is more into soccer, so he would have preferred them learning a sport he knew.
For a Disney Plus original, this could have gone to theatres and done quite well. It’s almost like Disney is using their streaming service to save themselves from ever having to release a mid-tier film to theatres ever again.
What Doesn’t Work: It’s still a sports drama very much aimed at kids, which keeps it from soaring. So, the heavy topic of being illegal and trying not to be deported is touched on, but not in a major way that a film aimed at adults would ahve drawn attention. It’s not trying to be a political changer, it jsut wants you to know the origins of these guys.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does kinda keep this film just a step back from being one of the truly great sports dramas. The other thing is that the boys, who are actors, don’t play a lot of actual basketball. Having just gone through Hustle, which used real players to make those scenes work so well, this one just uses a few quick cuts and skills training montages. Basketball takes a back seat at times in a basketball movie.
Legit. They play more basketball in Space Jam.
The Blind Perspective: Since Disney chose not to credit the narrator, I don’t know who did this solid work. It’s easier than Hustle, because the basketball sequences aren’t as heavy, so it’s more like narrating a straightforward family drama. It’s an easier script to have to write, and put together, but it was done well anyway.
Final Thoughts: If you have Disney Plus, check out Rise. They’ve been putting some good originals on Disney Plus this year, mostly watchable at least. I think of how many Disney classics used to go to theatres in the sports drama realm, from miracle, Glory Road, The Rookie, to all the way back with The mighty Ducks, The Big Green, and Angels In the Outfield. Sports have always been a big part of Disney’s release slate. now they go straight to streaming, and only a few animated, Marvel, or Lucas Films titles are lucky enough to crack into theatres.
Final Grade: B+