If good intentions do not pave the road to Hell, they at least cobble the sidewalk to mediocrity. That’s what we get with Marius A. Markevicius’ The Other Dream Team, a well-intentioned documentary that suffers from a lack of focus. The film tells the story of the 1992 Lithuanian Olympic Men’s Basketball team, who won the bronze in Barcelona, but were overshadowed by America’s much-hyped Dream Team.
The Lithuanians’ story is a much more dramatic than that of the United States team, as the Lithuanians lived much of their lives occupied by the Soviet Union, and a handful of them were forced into playing for the Russian National Team that won the gold at the 1988 Olympics. The film ranges far and wide, acting as a history lesson on Lithuanian and Soviet politics, a primer on the history and importance of basketball in the Baltic states, plus offering a look at a modern day Lithuanian NBA prospect (an aspect that feels shoehorned in). And this is the film’s basic problem — it’s simply all over the place, and, consequently, wholly uneven. Some segments just work better than others. The fight for Lithuanian independence is especially strong, since it’s shocking in its brutality and emotional resonance — and because it’s a piece of history mostly overlooked by Americans. But you also get the other side of the spectrum (like a look at life in the U.S.S.R.) that too often feels like a recap from middle school social studies.
Since Markevicius wants to cover so much ground, chunks of The Other Dream Team feel glossed over or rushed through. The Olympic basketball footage itself — which is presumably a huge draw for basketball fans that the movie’s seemingly targeting — is lacking. When compared to a something like last year’s sports documentary Senna, which contains wall-to-wall archival footage, The Other Dream Team feels desperately and tragically lacking in that department. Most of the interview subjects — especially the players themselves — are interesting, though too often specialized (you’re getting zero entertainment value out of listening to Bill Walton unless you’re already familiar with his enthusiastic schtick). Really, the entire film — no matter how well-intentioned it is — is a bit too specialized lacks the ultimate inspiration it’s shooting for and, consequently, lacks the emotional response it deserves. Not Rated.
Starts Friday at Carolina Asheville Cinema 14