Plot: What’s it about?
As sports work their way into movies more and more, it will make sense that there will be more movies about them. And, contrary to the popular belief that Ron Shelton directs all movies about sports, it’s just not true. Another genre that has been growing by leaps and bounds is the romance movies. Now I’m not talking An Affair To Remember here, but the offbeat type of movies that appeal to a younger audience. Love and Basketball is just that, and while it mixes some of the elements of White Men Can’t Jump, it is essentially a love story that revolves around the theme of basketball. One thing that I immediately liked about this movie is that it didn’t try and stereotype the families. Though the cast is predominately black, it’s not a “black movie” per se. It’s a far cry away from movies like Friday and Boyz in the Hood. The story starts as Monica (Sanaa Lathan) moves into her new house right next door to Quincy and his family. Monica is somewhat of a tomboy and is interested in basketball. Interested, of course, is an undersatement. Basketball is her life. Though her father is a banker and mother a housewife (and proud of it), Monica bucks the system and continues to pursue her dream of becoming the first female professional basketball player. Conversely, we have Quincy. Quincy’s father, Zeke (Dennis Haysbert) is a professional basketball player (even if he plays for the Clippers) and Qunicy is set to follow in his footsteps.
The movie is divided, cleverly enough, into quarters with the first concentrating on the early lives of Monica and Quincy. Shown to have a love hate relationship from their first meeting, we can tell that there will be an interesting chemistry with these two further into the movie. While the first quarter is brief, the second concentrates on the high school and college years. With the lead characters now playing their actual parts (though I don’t think Omar Epps can play a high schooler for much longer), we now see that both Quincy and Monica have become basketball stars. Monica, very emotional, has trouble keeping her feelings locked in while playing whereas Quincy has his father’s genes and is a rising star who has his pick of colleges to attend. Coming down to the last game, Monica is finally offered a full basketball scholarship to USC…oddly enough where Quincy has chosen to go to school (as did his dad). While in college, Quincy is the undisputed star of the team, even though he’s only a freshman. They manange to work in a “Sports Center” segment, making no atempt to concel the fact that the story is taking place in 1988-89 school year, but it gives us a picture of how good Quincy is. Trying to make their relationship work, Monica finally stars to suceed on the women’s basketball team, and her feelings that her coach didn’t like her are firmly dismissed. But things start to change…
Quarter three starts in 1993. Quincy and Monica have gone their seperate ways. Quincy dropped out of school as a Freshman to enter the draft and has now been traded around the NBA trying to make a name for himself. Monica has relocated to Spain and is now playing international league basketball. Though treated well and semi-successful, she misses Quincy and all the joys of being back home. You can probably see where this is going, but don’t be too sure. While I immediately labeled this movie wrong when it came out, I can see now that I was wrong. Combining all of the elements of a love story and a semi-good sports movie, Love and Basketball is a very well-made movie. With a great supporting cast that includes Alfrie Woodard and Dennis Haysbert the acting is strong and it’s not the stereotyped “black” movie that we see so much of lately.
Video: How does it look?
I can remember the days when New Line would put out a DVD and my jaw would consistently drop when looking at the image quality. Well, times have changed and technology has advanced significantly in the past couple of decades – but for the better. While this might not be the biggest catalog release of the year, Warner has offered up a pretty amazing-looking Blu-ray that exceeds that of the previous DVD. The image is clean, sharp, crisp, vibrant…pick any synonym of “clear” that you like. I noticed nothing that could deter this image from being short of reference quality. The 1.85:1 AVC HD image sports a very well-balanced look that is only present in some of the best transfers. Black levels were right on target, and edge enhancement is kept to a bare minimum. I noticed no artifacting, no digtial errors and no compression errors.
Audio: How does it sound?
While not quite as impressive as the video, the audio doesn’t disappoint either. Active at times, the upgraded DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack delivers at many times in the movie. As a majority of the movie takes place in the past, it’s kind of fun to listen to the old late 80’s hits (Bobby Brown’s “My Perrogative” caught my ear). The dialogue is clear and clean and free of any distortion. Surround effects, while kept to a minimum, are present at key times in the movie; most noteably during the basketball games (crowd effects). While I feel that there could have been more audio parts in the movie, I think what was used was right for the movie. An excellent job here as well.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Most all of the features have made the leap (jump?) to this Blu-ray, though we lose the isolated score with commentary and some of the DVD-ROM features as well, but let’s face it – did anyone really ever use those? Right.
- Audio Commentary – Director Gina-Prince Bythewood and actress Sanaa Lathan collaborate for a pretty lively commentary track. Bythewood, being the writer and director, seems to have a lot more to say and rightfully so. It’s a nice addition to the disc.
- Audition Tapes – Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps read from the script as well as their youthful counterparts.
- Music Video – Lucy Pearl’s “Dance Tonight.”
- Documentary: Breaking the Glass Ceiling – Probably the most robust supplement on this disc, this 35 minute piece focuses on females and some of the setbacks that some have had while trying to get ahead in life. Interviews feature Geraldine Ferraro (Walter Mondale’s running mate in 1984) as well as several interviews with members of the Los Angeles Sparks basketball team.
- Deleted Scenes – Available with or without commentary, scenes cut from the final version of the film.
- Outtakes – I could have sworn these were labeled as “Gag Reels” on the DVD, but I could be mistaken. Anyhow…shenanigans on the set.
- Storyboards – Several are included with the last one available for viewing.
- Theatrical Trailer
The Bottom Line
I’d actually forgotten how much I enjoyed Love and Basketball. I’m not and most likely will ever be a basketball fan, but even fifteen years later I still find the movie enjoyable. Though Warner has axed a few of the supplements from the 2000 DVD, it’s really of no consequence. The Blu-ray has top notch audio and video and more than enough supplements to warrant a purchase.