- Actors: Kevin Sorbo, Aaron Jakubenko, Wade Briggs, Anna McGahan
- Director: J.D. Scott
- Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
- Language: English
- Subtitles: French, English, Spanish
- Region: Region 1
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Rated: PG
- Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
- DVD Release Date: February 7, 2017
- Run Time: 98 minutes
Christian faith-based films have a notorious reputation for amateur filmmaking, but Spirit of the Game, along with other recent Mormon entries into the faith-based genre, proves that no one denomination is guiltier than another. No matter what religion is making the film, if the primarily goal is to evangelize with the content, the result is more propaganda than art. This might even be forgivable if the quality of filmmaking weren’t so laughably poor. Spirit of the Game is no worse than countless Christian-made films, but it certainly is no better either.
Based on a true story from the mid-1950s that shows actual potential for a solid sports film, Spirit of the Game is quickly bogged down with cliché dialogue and amateur acting. After he is harshly dumped by his fiancé, twenty-year-old Mormon, DeLyle Condie, leaves behind his college basketball career to become a missionary for his church. He is sent to Melbourne, Australia, where the upcoming Olympics have many citizens excited about the very sport he left behind. At first the missionaries have a casual relationship with the locals through friendly basketball games, until the mission president forbids participation in sports. Condie proves the value of the sport as an evangelical tool, after an impromptu game at a local prison sees results, and they are given permission to play.
Condie and a group of his missionary colleagues put together a team called the Mormon Yankees, with the purpose of being an exhibition team for the official Olympic teams to play as practice. Then, to everyone’s surprise, they begin winning against many of these teams. A win against the esteemed French team leads to a brutal rematch exhibition game, which serves as the film’s climactic sequence. This has all of the makings of a classic sports film, unfortunately ineffective due to the shortcomings of the production.
There is no nuance, no subtlety, and no depth in either the dialogue or the acting reciting these poorly written lines. I have seen children’s films with more complexity than these characters have, despite being based on real people. The screenplay feels forcefully contrived into a predictable sports narrative, which may have been bearable with more believable performers. Not only are the actors cast in these roles unable to convincingly say the lines, they are also fairly incompetent at the sport they are supposed to excel at. As a result, even the scenes without dialogue end up feeling false.
There is no need to beat a dead horse. The bottom line is that only those prioritizing religious message and safe content over quality filmmaking will be able to appreciate Spirit of the Game. There may be no language, sex, or violence to offend any religious groups, but there is also no content intelligent enough to inspire any real introspection. They have watered down the narrative to the point that it is simultaneously safe and completely ineffective as a result.
The DVD release comes with a behind-the-scenes featurette.
Entertainment Value: 4/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 2/10
Historical Significance: 0/10
Special Features: 2/10