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Still shot from the movie: Hoop Dreams.

Hoop Dreams

This documentary follows the Hoop Dreams of some aspiring basketball players from inner-city Chicago. Get the movie review and more. »


Overall: B+
Violence: A
Sexual Content: A
Language: C
Drugs/Alcohol: --
Run Time: 170
Theater Release: 13 Oct 1995
Video Release: 09 May 2005
MPAA Rating: PG-13
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Before you decide that your lack of interest in basketball knocks Hoop Dreams off your list of video choices, think again. Hoop Dreams is a documentary, and is as much about human relations and racial discrimination as it is about basketball. I am not fond of the sport, but had no problem in devoting close to three hours to watch the story of a couple of inner-city kids in Chicago, William Gates and Arthur Agee, and their determination to make it into the NBA.

First, let me give away the ending: Neither of them make it to the NBA. A documentary has no obligation to supply a hero's victory. In the movies, when the hero has to make the big free throw to win the game, it always goes in the basket. Not so here. This is real life, where heroes get nervous and scared, and sometimes just choke up under pressure.

The camera captures moments that no actor could duplicate. Like when Arthur's parents are left with a $1,400 debt (staggering for their income) from a ritzy basketball high school in the suburbs, that decided to dump their son after his playing slipped. The Agee's meet with the white accountant, desperate to make any offer so the school will release Arthur's grades, allowing him to graduate from his inner-city high school. A monthly payment arrangement is made, and Arthur's dad is so grateful, he hugs the accountant, who obviously doesn't want to have a black man's arms around him, especially on camera. These scenes just don't happen in "real" movies. That's probably why that school is suing the producers of this film.

The only warning here is the illustrious f-word that is heard in a rap song playing on a radio in one scene. Otherwise, the film is free of sex and violence, and the rest of the language is better than what I hear from the kids at the high school down my street. Hoop Dreams is a film that both adults and teens would benefit from viewing.

Hoop Dreams is rated PG-13: for drug content and some strong language.

Cast: William Gates, Arthur Agee
Studio: Criterion Collection

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About the Reviewer: Rod Gustafson

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