And here's another street-ballin' flick that wants you to know how tough it is to make it in life when the only thing not lyin' to your face is that dirty old basketball. Ball Don't Lie had a lot of potential and some sweeet b-ball sequences, but annoying editing and several mis-placed flashbacks ultimately hurt the film, which boasts appearances by Nick Cannon and Rosanna Arquette -- both of whom populated just about five to six minutes of the 102-minute feature. Chris "I'm Starting to Use My Real Name Instead of Ludacris" Bridges also shows up as a mentor who doesn't do much mentoring, except for schooling and then being schooled on the cement court.
He's not the only one: When it's not dazzling us with some fancy footwork, Ball Don't Lie schools us in the pitfalls of a broken foster care system; one that finds our hero, Sticky (newcomer Grayson Boucher), moving from one dysfunctional situation to the next. At some point, Sticky meets a girl who works at Foot Locker -- tries to find enough money to buy her a necklace for her birthday -- and then he gets beat up by a guy with a gun. The end. I don't mean to be harsh toward the movie, but it just doesn't serve a purpose -- it didn't go anywhere. I never read the book this was based on (written by Matt De La Pena), but I'd like to think it contained a little more than "What a sad situation for that poor boy."
Obviously, when you hear the word 'flashbacks', you know where this one is heading: Ball Don't Lie jumps all over the place -- with a majority of the film split between Sticky as a grown teenager and Sticky as a little boy. To make things even more complicated, they'll often flashback to stuff that happened a few months prior -- then flash-forward before giving us another flashback. I'd say about 15 minutes of Ball Don't Lie was spent in the here and now, and not as part of some flashback. The film's greatest moments come when Sticky is hanging with some of the local players down at the community gym -- the lone white kid in a sea of hard, tough, no-nonsense black street players. When first-time feature director Brin Hill left the camera on the gym action for more than two minutes, this ensemble cast really had a good time, and the lightening-fast basketball moves looked great on the big screen.
But then we'd have scenes in the gym where Hill would feel the need to stick three flashbacks in. So, essentially, you'd have a six or seven minute gym scene that included three annoying flashbacks. And it's fine if all these flashbacks are building up to something -- if, in the current time, Sticky set a date to try out for a college, or he has a big game to prepare for. Then, together with the flashbacks, we slowly work up to a nail-biting conclusion -- with our hearts firmly invested in a positive outcome for Sticky because we now know all the hardships this kid's been through. Unfortunately, there's none of that. There's no "big game" or "one last shot." There's nothing to build toward -- just a bunch of sad scenes and hurtful people.
Early on, they introduce a pretty nasty OCD problem Sticky has -- but it's only used to harm our character, and never once does he try to help himself, or does someone try to help him. This, to me, was the most interesting aspect of the film; a tough, b-baller with extreme OCD issues. Fantastic! However, the filmmakers are sloppy with it (he needs to fold his clothes a certain way, but he keeps his money all bunched up in a plastic bag?) and after it comes back to bite him in the end, there's never redemption. That part of the film felt incomplete. Though I hate playing the woulda-shoulda game, had Ball Don't Lie gone the straight linear route and changed the story so that our main character was actually working toward a concrete goal, perhaps the film would've shined. All you're getting here, though, is a dish of messy emotional drama and some really kickass basketball footage. Perhaps that's enough for some, but it wasn't enough for me.