Some of the marketing I’ve seen for Undefeated has said it’s one of those movies that makes men cry. If you’re a regular reader here, you already know that I didn’t cry. But I will admit there were a couple of moments in the film where my allergies really started acting up…
This year’s Oscar winner for Best Feature Length Documentary follows a season with an inner city football team in Memphis, Tennessee. If you’ve seen your fair share of sports documentaries over the years, you know what you’re getting into here in terms of the story arc: the coach who cares more than he probably should, the superstar talent who’s going to have trouble getting into college (theoretically) because of his grades, the kid whose entire life revolves around football, then he gets injured. Hell, if you’ve seen Hoop Dreams, The Blind Side, Friday Night Lights (movie and/or TV series), or some of ESPN’s ’30 for 30′ docs, you know the storylines you’re getting into. So does the predictability aspect make it less enjoyable? Not at all.
While this may or may not work in a fictional sports film anymore (a debate for another time), knowing these are real people with real stakes keeps the drama high throughout. The best compliment I can give this documentary is that by the time the team gets to the playoffs, whether the team wins or loses becomes almost an afterthought. At that point, the audience is completely invested in the future lives of this coach and these kids. Well done.
The next post Sunday night/Monday morning will be staying in this genre. Can’t say enough about how much I’m looking forward to the ’30 for 30′ doc about Magic Johnson’s HIV announcement. Until then, here’s the trailer for Undefeated: