Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Full Court Miracle Review by Briana Alessio

This 2003 Disney Channel Original Movie is a holiday film based on the true story of college basketball star Lamont Carr.  However, this is not to celebrate Christmas as most Disney “holiday” movies are categorized under.  This celebrates Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday which does not seem to receive adequate attention around this time of year.  Full Court Miracle brings us the story of an average family whose son in yeshiva (an Orthodox Jewish seminary – thank you Google, because I had no idea) strives to be a basketball player. 

Basically, the main character Alex Schlotsky plays for a beyond lousy basketball team who wants to improve its potential.  He sees a man practicing on a court and begins speaking to him.  This man does not want anything to do with the kid.  Alex returns home and finds out he is Lamont Carr, a former college basketball player.  After continual persevering and begging, Carr finally gives in and agrees to coach them for a while (for $20 per session).  The first coaching session is quite hysterical, involving his demand that the kids run back and forth from one side of the court to the other.

The relationship slowly builds throughout the film between Carr and the kids.  As we see these acquaintances turn into friendships, we discover more about Carr’s background.  Not only has he been living out of a van, but there is also a scene where he longingly gazes at a picture of who appears to be his wife and child.  We realize they are out of his reach, as there is a particular sadness and hurt in his eyes.  From here, Alex and Carr not only assist each other professionally, but they also help each other develop their personalities to realize what their hearts truly need.

The cast is not well known but the film is well cast.  Alex is played by a kid of the same first name, Alex Linz.  Linz seems to have been strictly a child actor, since he has not appeared in anything since 2007.  We did see him perform in Home Alone 3 (as, once again, a kid named Alex) and One Fine Day among others.  Richard T. Jones, who gives us Lamont Carr, has appeared in a few episodes of the revamped Hawaii Five-0 among various television shows.  He has also been in quite a few films including the fantastic 2011 science fiction film Super 8.  Linda Kash who plays Alex’s mother Cynthia has played the Unsinkable Molly Brown in the 2012 miniseries Titanic.  In addition, she has appeared in many television shows including Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Cybill.  Jason Blicker, who plays Marshall Schlotsky, has also starred in films such as The Day After Tomorrow and Superstar.

Stuart Gillard directs the film.  Gillard has directed many pieces including a 1987 episode of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color called The Return of the Shaggy Dog.  He also gave us 1997’s RocketMan and mostly TV movies including Avalon High and a handful of episodes of the remake of 90210.

This film is not entirely serious but has many comedic moments as well.  For instance, Alex’s family invites Carr to the house for dinner.  I believe they serve him Gefilte fish which he is cautious to try at first, then realizes it is delicious.  Watching Alex force the yamaka (also seen spelled as yarmulka or yarmulke) onto Carr’s head is also worthy of a chuckle.  Alex’s father brings a few laughs to the film with his dry humor.  When Alex was searching for a new home for Carr, he questioned his father as to whether his condo had new tenants yet.  Mr. Schlotsky replies with, “The last serious offer I got, I was riding my pet dinosaur.”  This looks like a simple line yet it is delivered with near perfection and simplicity.

1.)  Sean Marquette who plays Big Ben Swartz has voiced Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the Ultimate Spider-Man video game released in 2005, as well as the character Pence in the video game Kingdom Hearts II, also released in 2005.
2.)  The character Alex Schlotsky is based on Lamont Carr's former player Alex Barbag.
3.)  When the team members are comparing PSAT scores, they list numbers in the thousands (1540, 1600, etc.), however PSAT scores range from 60-240. The SAT is measured in the thousands.
4.)  The movie is supposed to take place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  However, during the playground/basketball scenes during the team’s practice, the CN Tower and Sky Dome are both seen.  They are located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
5.)  Although we are led to believe this film takes place around Hanukkah (late November-late December), leaves are shown on trees and shrubs are in full foliage.  In Philadelphia, where as we said the film is supposed to take place, the leaves have disappeared from the trees by late October. 

My favorite part of the film occurs during a scene where Mrs. Klein walks into Rabbi Lewis’ office and begins to rearrange items on his desk.  He nonchalantly says to her, “Please don’t straighten my desk.”  She proceeds to walk out, and Rabbi Lewis looks toward Heaven with a helpless look on his face with both arms out to the side in frustration.  This scene was built to create a comedic feel and that it certainly did.  While on the topic, my absolute favorite character was Rabbi Lewis.  His comedic timing was spot on, and his compassion for Alex and the team was refreshing.

Full Court Miracle brings many smiles, many heartfelt moments, and possibly a couple of tears.  After all, this is a Disney production.  I enjoyed this film immensely and would definitely watch it in the years to come.  That being said, I also wish to express a personal belief that there are fewer Hanukkah based films than there should be.  Not just talking Disney here but in general.  There are an absolute TON of Christmas films (not saying I have a problem with this being I’m a Christian/Gentile), BUT there are a large number of faiths out there besides Christianity.  Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc should be represented more in films.  Maybe Disney can start the trend!  To summarize, this film is well worth seeing to bring a light of joy to your heart.  Be sure to see it.

Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish friends!

My Rating:  4/5

Don’t do that.  Don’t put yourselves in a box – ever.

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