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WORLD WAR I RAGES in Europe as two of its victims -- orphans Helmut (Robert Karl Burke) and Brigitta Brink (Amber Willenborg) -- find themselves released from an American internment camp into the care of Pastor Douglas Simms, M.D. (Tony Lincoln). But the German siblings soon wonder whether the life left behind was better than the one now facing them in Waterville, U.S.A....
Many of the townsfolk harbor bitter feelings toward the young newcomers, and probably none more than Nicholas Emery (Jock MacDonald), whose son Ben (Elwon Bakly) recently returned from the battlefront with an amputated leg. In Nicholas' eyes, people like Helmut and Brigitta have rendered his oldest boy useless on the farm, reducing him to nothing more than another mouth to feed in financially difficult times. Adding insult to injury is the fact his second son is smitten with Fraulein Brink.
Growing weary of breaking up playground fights involving Helmut and his classmates, newly hired schoolteacher Martin Canlon (Peter Coyote) decides to tackle this issue of discrimination with some rather unorthodox instructional methods. Making use of the recently invented gramophone, Mr. Canlon acquaints his students with a German opera named Der Korb -- or, in English, The Basket. Since he only plays a snippet each day, the entire town is soon caught up in wondering what happens next.
In another revolutionary move, Canlon introduces basketball -- the unfamiliar invention of one Dr. James Naismith -- with the hopes of teaching his pupils something called teamwork. He even commits them to play against the undefeated Spokane Spartans, an adult team offering $500 to any squad capable of beating them. Little do the people of Waterville know how much the contest will transform their lives.
Although this heartwarming film contains scenes of tension and violence, these portrayals are non-graphic and never gratuitous. Furthermore, with language concerns being limited to a handful of mild profanities, all but the very youngest family members will be able to enjoy the fruit of The Basket -- a metaphor for life woven between the libretto of Der Korb and a team sport's demand for cooperation.
The Basket is rated PG: for some mild violence and brief language.
Cast: Peter Coyote, Karen Allen, Robert Burke
Studio: (pictures (c)2000 MGM)