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Kobe Doin' Work (2009)

TV Movie  -   -  Documentary | Sport  -  25 April 2009 (USA)
6.2
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Ratings: 6.2/10 from 985 users  
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A documentary following Kobe Bryant during one day during a game against the San Antonio Spurs.

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A documentary following Kobe Bryant during one day during a game against the San Antonio Spurs.

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Documentary | Sport

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25 April 2009 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Game Day with Kobe  »

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Most of the potential is missed although the final film is still of some interesting to basketball fans
9 November 2009 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

In an approach to the film the other year that focused on footballer Zidane, Spike Lee sets up a multitude of cameras to follow Kobe Bryant for the entire playoff game versus the San Antonio Spurs, including access to the locker room area before, during and after the game. However, while the former film was more of an art installation project than a sports film, Lee's film appears to be more about capturing Bryant when he is doing what he does best – playing. The film even includes a narration from Bryant in addition to being able to hear him during the game.

All the things appear to be in place for a very interesting film. We get to see a player at work in detail, we get access to Phil Jackson's locker room when it is normally closed, we get narration from Kobe to provide more detail and insight and it is all being made by a film director who manages to be interesting even when he makes a bad film and is passionate about his subject. What a tragic outcome then that this potential doesn't pay off due to a combination of factors – some being outside of the control of the makers but some definitely falling at Lee's door.

So OK, the film is not helped by us hearing of Kobe's massive game against the Knicks on the night he recorded the audio, but it turns out that the pick of the Spurs game did not produce the best game to be focusing on Kobe. Certainly the first half of the game/film produces surprisingly little action – something that is highlighted by the two or three big plays he pulls off being shown in slow-mo or in stills. This is a problem that the makers have had to live with but certainly it leaves the casual viewer wondering what the film is trying to show us because he doesn't appear to be as special as the stats and other games say he is. It gets better as the game goes on and it does show him playing as part of a team and doing work as part of the team but the film could have done with an extended highlights reel feel to it as well as stuff that shows his basketball IQ.

On top of this we have the second problem which is partly down to the sports culture today but also down to Lee's post-production. With even the hint of a scandal being seized upon by a gossip hungry media (as Kobe knows firsthand), the vast majority of rich people are "managed" within an inch of their life so as not to lose their marketability or damage their brand image. With Kobe there is an element of him maturing but there is the constant feel that he is simply being insincere and very careful when he is in front of the microphone or camera. OK so this is not Lee's fault but he must have known by this point that a way to make the game action more engaging was going to be to get the most out of Kobe's narration. I'm not sure what his plan was in the viewing room but what we get from Kobe is endless compliments and affectionate remarks about other players. Apparently nothing appears to bother him whatsoever and he loves everyone – apparently even being rough up by opposition is all a bit of fun and doesn't rile him in the slightest. What Kobe does is to make the narration dull. He has very little of interest to say for any viewer. I'm not a massive basketball fan but even discussions on tactics would have been preferable to what I got. I imagine it is hard for Kobe to know what to say for 90 minutes and this is why it was important for Lee to have prepared questions and structure based on the game – talking points if you will, subjects that he can push Kobe on and get him talking. It feels like he hasn't done this and, if he had, then it didn't work for him.

Don't get me wrong there is still some stuff here of interest to the target audience. It is good to see the workings of the team and hear Kobe talking (which he does a lot of – it is just as well he is as good as he is, otherwise I guess many would tire of his constant opinions and feedback). It is also interesting to watch a game with the focus on just one player rather than the bigger picture. These factors only do so much for the film and mostly it is surprisingly dull, giving the viewer just about enough of a glimpse at the potential of what could have been done here so that the disappointment we feel is clear.


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