This is a portrait of the rookie year of Yao Ming, a Chinese basketball superstar who is imported to play for the Houston Rockets. He arrives not just with the expectations associated with being a first-draft pick, but also with the hopes of (we are told) one billion countrymen on his shoulders. His debut is a disaster, but he soon establishes himself as a force to be reckoned with, as well as charming American fans with his self-effacing personality and humour.
The film is narrate… by his translator, Colin Pine, which provides some connective tissue over the patchwork of candid footage and clips from sportscasts and commentary. The film is engaging, but will mean more to viewers who are actually interested in basketball. The effect overall is of a very slick sports channel bio segment now at feature length, but it is engaging. It is also eye-opening, for this reviewer unfamiliar with this world, to see the rather appallingly xenophobic comments made by some of the sports commentators.
Here we go again, assigning a star rating for a documentary, and applying a scale that is really more properly suited to narrative film. Anyway, the score sounds great, and it is this music that puts the surround sound to use. There are a number of very effective music effect cues that emerge from the rear speakers. The dialogue’s sound quality depends somewhat on the source material, but in the new footage, it is a bit loud and overmodulated.
The scenes that use new footage and CG collages is very striking, with blazing colours, eye-popping contrasts and deep blacks. Otherwise, the picture quality depends on where the print originated. Roughest is the material coming from TV broadcasts (lots of grain here), but a fair bit of the shot-on-video, follow-Yao-around stuff is noticeable softer as well (as it would inevitably be). The aspect ratio is the original fullscreen.
Not much here: nine deleted scenes, and trailers for the feature and a couple of other sports-related DVDs. The menu’s main screen is animated and scored, and the secondary screens are scored.
It ain’t deep, but it is entertaining and well put together.
Special Features List
- Deleted Scenes