Shooting Stars (2023)

Shooting Stars (2023)

A tender coming-of-age about basketball and brotherhood, based on the real-life childhood experiences of NBA legend LeBron James

7.0

Movie

United States of America
English, French, Portuguese
Drama, History
2023
CHRIS ROBINSON
Algee Smith, Caleb McLaughlin, Chad L. Coleman
116 min

TLDR

He shoots and he scores on the court and in the cinema—what can’t the King do?

What it's about

Based on NBA star LeBron James’ biography of the same name, Shooting Stars tells the story of how a young James conquered basketball (and high school) with a little help from his friends.

The take

Shooting Stars may be based on LeBron James’ account of his teenage years, but this adaption by Chris Robinson is more than just a vanity project. In fact, James is hardly the lead here—every one of his friends gets a chance to shine in this coming-of-age story about brotherhood and friendship. It’s closer to films like Boyz N the Hood and Stand By Me in that way, but that’s not to say it’s a letdown in the sports department. The games are choreographed beautifully; the actors display wonderful athleticism and the filmmakers employ various camera techniques that never fail to surprise. There are times, though, that these techniques distract more than excite, and there is a sense that the film could’ve benefited from a more pared-down style. But this ultimately doesn’t take away from the film’s tender and thrilling story.

What stands out

Caleb McLaughlin. Every one of the kid actors (two of whom were plucked right out of high school) turns in a believable, winsome performance, but it’s the Stranger Things star who steals the show. As the little kid with a big heart, McLaughlin is mesmerizing, able to match veteran actors’ commanding performance beat for beat, able to persuade his feet-taller friends to follow his lead, able to fill every frame with whatever emotion he feels, whether it’s triumphant joy or overbearing jealousy. There may have been little room to fully shine in Stranger Things, which is already overcrowded with celebrities, but here McLaughlin is in his element. One of the many joys of watching this film is realizing that McLaughlin is well on his way to true stardom.

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