Hollywood takes to the basketball courts this week, as the Kyrie Irving-starring Uncle Drew hits theaters. Basketball hasn’t exactly been a subject with a ton of memorable films. For every White Men Can’t Jump or Hoosiers, there’s plenty of Like Mikes out there. We scoured the internet looking for the “very best” in basketball movies this week, and that’s how we found a little (pun intended) movie called The Minis, also known as Little Hoop Dreams.
The elephant in the room with this movie is that the main cast is primarily little people, or dwarves, as is their preferred nomenclature in the film. I won’t make much mention of this, and only a monster would really glean any sort of humor at the mere sight of dwarves or little people (Honestly, I’m not sure what the politically correct term is, so I’ll go with what the movie perpetuates). What I will say is that this film attempts to be a message about the importance of believing in yourself and the idea of being able to accomplish anything you put your mind to. What this movie actually is, though, is a story in which our heroes get corrupted by fame (?), Dennis Rodman helps them win some basketball games, some kid decides to become a clown, and then our heroes lose the final game because they cheat. Inspiring.
The story revolves around Roger, a little person that once had dreams of being a basketball player. Now, he’s older, has a wife and a kid, and his dream of basketball stardom is all but over. When his son doesn’t get a basketball scholarship, Roger’s financial situation is (I guess) in dire straits. In order to try and afford his son’s tuition Roger’s plan is to recruit his friends (all little people) to compete in a basketball tournament with a $50,000 cash prize. As much as the message is “you can do anything you put your mind to”, the truth of basketball is that it favors the tall. I mean, I’m 6 feet tall and I’m too short for an NBA career; it’s okay to admit these shortcomings, pun intended. In order to level the playing field, the team recruits Dennis Rodman, whom may have been able to parlay his role here to satisfy community service.
From there, Rodman’s agent sinks his claws into “The Minis”, seeing nothing but dollar signs, because apparently, the public has been starved for a team of little people playing a street ball tournament in Venice Beach. The Minis blow up, for some reason, and they wind up on covers of magazines, rake in the dough from merchandising, and the usual ways that agents exploit a team of little people for their personal gain. So, at this point, Roger has enough money to send his shitty kid to college, so there goes the conflict. But the movie just kind of… keeps going. Keep in mind, they haven’t even played in the tournament yet and the original set-up conflict has already been resolved, which is a very inventive way to structure a film.
For the rest of the run time, there’s some more conflicts that pop up and get resolved: the agent wants the Minis to advertise diapers, they get pissed with each other, break up, and get back together in about the same time it took to read this sentence. Then, Roger’s son reveals that he never wanted to play basketball, but he actually wants to go to Paris to go to clown college. It’s one of the dumbest reveals ever, but to be honest, the kid was really shitty at basketball, so it’s probably for the best. Also, Roger’s best friend, Chevy, has been going out with a tall woman from Paris, Texas with a cow fetish, but she’s only into Chevy because of his fame, so he realizes she’s shallow and falls for a waitress that is also a little person. Additionally, the girl from Paris, Texas seems to have a revolving door of boyfriends; I cannot confirm whether they are supposed to be different guys or they could never get the same actor to show up twice. Either way, who cares?
Eventually, we get to the basketball tournament, which is basically just a set of montages, similar to those scenes you’d see in a baseball movie where the ragtag team starts winning. But the tournament was the crux of the whole movie in this case, so we don’t learn a damn thing about how the games go, except for the fact that Dennis Rodman made every point for them in the first game, he tosses Chevy towards the basket (with ball in hand) in the second game, and then Rodman fakes an injury in the final game in order for the Minis to learn that they can do it without him. They wind up losing that game because the Minis cheat. It’s also a weird decision for Rodman to make, as they kind of already proved to themselves in the previous game that they could have a meaningful impact despite their size. I’m guessing he was just hungover (allegedly).
I feel like this movie was made with the best of intentions, but it fails to achieve it, due to its failed attempt at a story arc and a muddled message. The closest thing to a lesson learned is by Chevy, who realizes that he needs to find a woman that likes him for who he is and to not be so shallow himself. That’s a B-storyline, though. Roger has no arc that makes any sense. He’s not a workaholic father that learns to be there for his son. He’s not actively pressuring his kid to play basketball, not that we see. He doesn’t even seem to be all that encumbered by his small stature. What is his point in all of this?
The addition of Dennis Rodman in the film is an interesting one. There are moments in the film where Rodman seems affable and willing to make fun of himself and his antics. Thinking about it, I find it funny that one of the things that separated Rodman from the rest of the NBA during his career was his wild tattoos, and now you’d be hard pressed to find a guy that doesn’t have a little bit of ink. Rodman’s line delivery throughout is… how do you say… a bit slurry. All the movies I watch for this article, I watch with subtitles, which is a good thing for Rodman, as he is at times, incomprehensible. It doesn’t help that this film seems to have saved money by having one microphone, but Rodman’s dialogue is especially indecipherable. And this is the future Ambassador of North Korea we’re talking about.
Structurally, the film is barely a movie more than it is a string of montages. I counted nine, which includes three basketball games, a photo shoot, a training montage, and a break-dancing sequence. This is a whole lot of time spent watching things take place without any sort of story progression, which is even odder, seeing as how the film is only about 80 minutes long.
You can tell that Little Hoop Dreams was made with the best of intentions, but it was made by a person that didn’t understand proper dramatic structure. There’s hardly any conflict, no character development, and overall, there’s no real point to it. I can see what they were trying to say, but they never actually say it. But, at least there are like 30 original songs.