Love And Basketball

Love And Basketball (2000)
New Line Home Entertainment
Cast: Sanaa Lathan, Omar Epps
Extras: Commentary Track, Isolated Score, Documentary, Deleted Scenes, Bloopers, Audition Reels, Animated Storyboards, Music Video, Trailers, Talent Files

If you were one of the handful of people to actually catch "Love & Basketball" during its theatrical run then you already know what a treat you’re in for. If, on the other hand, you’re like the other 99.9% of the populace then you owe it to yourself to read on and see if this overlooked gem of a film is for you.

Let’s get this straight right off the bat, this is not a sports movie. At its heart, it’s about a young woman who never gives up on her dreams — be they professional or romantic. Gina Prince-Bythewood wrote and directed the film and obviously drew from her own experiences to add a personal touch that is the heart of this story. "Love & Basketball" is as much about love, family, and chasing your dreams as it is about basketball — hence the title I suppose. That being said, there is some serious basketball action that serves as the framework for the story.

Just as in a basketball game (pro, not college, mind you) "Love & Basketball" is divided into four quarters. The first opens with young Monica (Sanaa Lathan) moving into an upperclass black neighborhood in southern California where she soon meets Quincy (Omar Epps), the son of an NBA player nearing the end of his career. The sparks really fly during their first foray onto the basketball court and the story quickly flows into the second quarter which follows them through high school and college as both pursue their dreams to become professional ballplayers while struggling to keep their bond to each other intact.

Just as both seem on the verge of achieving their dreams, everything seems to fall apart as the third quarter of the film opens. Quincy, who begins adopting many of the less-than-desirable traits of his pro-athlete father, leaves school after his freshman year to seek fame and fortune in the NBA — casting off Monica in the process. Since these are pre-WNBA days, Monica continues to chase her dream by heading overseas to play semi-professional ball in Spain. But both soon come to realize that there is much more to life than basketball.

The fourth and final quarter sees Monica and Quincy truly growing up and recognizing that dreams have a tendency to evolve over time. The ending is neither predictable nor sappy which only serves to reinforce the impression that these characters are real and that, as in life, all’s fair in love and basketball.

"Love & Basketball" is presented in a 1.85:1 <$PS,widescreen> <$16x9,anamorphic> format. As is to be expected from a New Line release, the quality of the video is outstanding. Colors are deep and rich, giving this transfer a very lifelike feel. Black level is also solid and even the darkest scenes show fine detail. The transfer exhibits absolutely no edge enhancement, compression problems, artifacts, or grain of any kind. The fact that the film is more story than actiondriven has a tendency to make you disregard just how good it looks. This is truly as close to perfect a DVD image as I’ve seen.

The audio comes in a DD 5.1 or optional 2.0 surround mix. The sound is very clear and dialogue is never muddled or overwhelmed. That being said, there really isn’t much in the way of range or atmospheric effects to really give this mix a workout. The only time the soundtrack really comes alive is when the film’s great soundtrack kicks in. From the original score to the flashback ’80s R&B hits, the music provides some much-needed life to the film.

As befitting a New Line Platinum Series DVD, "Love & Basketball" is packed with extras. First up is a running commentary with director/writer Gina Prince-Bythewood and actress Sanaa Lathan. The director discusses her inspirations for creating this film and Lathan fills in the blanks with her own observations on bringing the director’s vision to the screen. As one might expect, getting this underdog of a film off the ground was quite a struggle and the end result is a real labor of love.

Also included is an isolated score that highlights the very fitting soundtrack that graces the movie. In the breaks between the musical passages, Prince-Bythewood, film editor Terilyn Shropshire and composer Terence Blanchard discuss what went into creating this score that is such an important part of the film.

Next up is a 37-minute documentary entitled "Breaking the Glass Ceiling" in which a number of successful women, ranging from current WNBA players to politicians Geraldine Ferraro and Maxine Waters, discuss the nature of competition — be it in athletics, politics, or life. It’s a nice companion piece to the film and it’s refreshing to come across a documentary that doesn’t merely rehash what has already been covered in the director’s <$commentary,commentary track>.

But that’s not all. The DVD also contains audition reels and animated storyboards, both of which can be viewed in a few different ways to show how the scenes progressed from initial concept to finished product. Deleted scenes are also offered but are fairly mediocre in quality so it’s easy to see why they were cut from the final edit. A few blooper reels are also presented and are fairly amusing. Also included is the music video for the song "Dance Tonight" by Lucy Pearl. Finally, rounding out the extras, is the film’s theatrical trailer in <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> and DD 5.1 to boot. All in all, it’s an impressive package of extra features.

"Love & Basketball" is a very touching movie that’s able to successfully blend elements of sports, romance, and a young woman’s coming of age story to create a wonderfully entertaining film. I can only imagine how hard it must have been to market a film like this for its theatrical release and I can only hope that it finds more success on DVD. Featuring a very solid cast, great basketball action, and a story that is deceptively deep, "Love & Basketball" is a fine film that comes highly recommended. As a New Line Platinum Series DVD, you’re assured of getting the best video and audio possible and a wealth of extras that provide some much-appreciated background on the film and the issues it explores.