Spike Lee might have launched a series with his fine-but-flawed documentary, Kobe: Doin’ Work, which comes out on DVD tomorrow. Last year, Lee had total access to the soon-to-be-MVP basketball star during a game against the San Antonio Spurs and set up some 30 cameras to videotape a guy he calls “one of the most driven, passionate athletes playing today.” Inspired by Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, the 2006 French film about soccer star Zinedine Zidane that made the art house circuit last year (it showed locally at the Cinematheque), Lee set out to make a movie that captured the intricacies of a high-caliber performance. One notable difference between Zidane and Kobe: Doin’ Work, however, is that Kobe: Doin’ Work has a voiceover that walks you through the film. The contrasts are striking.
While Zidane has little exposition, Kobe has too much. “It’s showtime. This is how we bond together as a team,” Bryant says in his voiceover, stating the obvious as the guys are huddling in the locker room, preparing to run onto the court for the opening tip. Since you can hear Kobe during the game, there’s really no need for the voiceover. In fact, Kobe talks constantly as he ‘s playing, instructing center Pau Gasol when to roll to the basketball and telling power forward Lamar Odom when he needs to double team Spurs forward Tim Duncan. “I didn’t realize I talked that damn much,” Bryant admits in the voiceover. Yet, the film does have a real beauty to it and provides a perspective you wouldn’t get from watching the game on TV. Some of the shots of Kobe driving past defender Bruce Bowen are impressive. And you get a clear sense of how physical the game is as Kobe gets caught in some brutal screens. But the ever-present voiceover is just too much. You don’t need a voiceover to see the extent to which Bryant (and coach Phil Jackson, whom we get to hear both pre-game and during half-time), leads the team in ways you wouldn’t know about, even if you were sitting courtside. At the film’s end, Bryant says he hopes the movie will help viewers understand his post-game comments better since he feels his technical descriptions of the game usually go over our heads. Uh, Kobe, the game might be an art form, but it ain’t rock science. — Jeff Niesel