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Love and Basketball: Platinum Series

Love and Basketball isn't a great movie, but it's a good one. Following the relationship of next door neighbors Quincy (Omar Epps) and Monica (Sanaa Lathan) from childhood through college and beyond, the film spends a lot of time examining the physical and emotional pressures of being an athlete — particularly a female one. Because, as the viewer quickly sees, boys' and girls' sports (well, at least basketball) are as different as night and day, especially in college (Quincy, aka "Q," plays in a big arena full of screaming fans, while Monica and her teammates pound the boards in a small gym, with mostly friends and family in the bleachers.) But all the interesting, compelling "sports stuff" takes a back seat to the Love and Basketball's central love story. And rightly so. While full of great jump shots and on-court action, this "love story in four quarters" is first and foremost a romance. Things get started when tomboyish Monica and Quincy, both 11, first clash on the court, right after her family moves in next door. "I'm going to be the first girl in the NBA!" she declares, stealing the ball from him. "You're gonna be my cheerleader!" he shoots back. By the time they're high school seniors, Monica and Q are still trading barbs, but there's something else there too, which ultimately leads them into each other's arms the night of the spring dance. From there, the pair heads to USC on basketball scholarships, where they have to deal with family issues and other internal and external demands. It's not hard to guess if there will be a happy ending, but even in the movies the road to happiness is a bumpy one. And it really doesn't matter, as long as the plot is interesting (it is) and the characters are persuasive (they are, especially radiant newcomer Lathan as Monica). Folks looking for a sweet, smart love story won't be disappointed with Love and Basketball, and if you really like the movie, you're in luck — New Line's Platinum Series DVD is well-stocked with features. Writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood contributes two commentary tracks, one with Lathan, the other (over an isolated score) with editor Terilyn Shropshire and composer Terence Blanchard. Both are interesting, but would have been more effective had they been combined. Other extras include cast and crew filmographies, seven deleted scenes, a three-minute blooper reel, video audition footage, a music video for "Dance Tonight" by Lucy Pearl, the theatrical trailer, four animated storyboards, and an original (if slightly rote) 36-minute documentary about women in sports that includes an interview with former vice presidential hopeful Geraldine Ferraro. There's also a script-to-screen feature for the DVD-ROM-equipped. The widescreen transfer looks great, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 (or Dolby 2.0 Surround) audio is more than adequate. Snap-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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