He Got Game (1998) Movie Review: Did you know that Spike Lee Likes Basketball?

Drinking Game

Take a Drink: any time someone takes Jesus Shuttleworth’s biblical name literally

Take a Drink: for any montage flashback

Take a Drink: whenever a character talks directly to the camera (A Spike Lee trademark)

Take a Drink: each time someone asks Jesus whether he’s made a decision

Drink a Shot: anytime someone sinks a shot on camera. (Double it if there isn’t a cut-away from the actor’s shot to the ball falling through the hoop)

Community Review


Movie Review

By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Three Beers) –

Jesus Shuttleworth (Ray Allen) is an up-and-coming high school basketball player who has found himself the center of attention, with the NBA and Universities breathing down his neck to commit.  Meanwhile, his imprisoned father Jake (Denzel Washington) is given a one week release from prison, courtesy of the governor. The Governor apparently is a major fan of basketball, and wants Jake to convince his son to attend his alma mater “Big State”. As the deadline to decide approaches colleges begin pressuring him with offers, gifts, grafts, and anything else to gain his favor.


Now, that’s the kind of Pressure I can get into. Or behind, or anywhere, really…

A Toast

Spike Lee is a well-known fan of basketball, having front-row seats to just about every New York Knicks game. That kind of regular fixture gives him a unique perspective on the sport that casual fans and everyone else will inevitably miss.

An argument for the Auteur  theory?

An argument for the Auteur theory?

Because of this, He Got Game has a very personal feel, particularly in any scene having to do with the sport.  One gets the sense that Lee was born to make a basketball movie, and much of He Got Game argues to the affirmative in that theory.  The film is jam-packed with the kind of social commentary Lee loves, and some not-so subtle jabs at the money-driven nature of the business, even (and especially) at the amateur level of College Athletics.

No symbolism in that name at all...

No symbolism in that name at all…

Pro-Basketball star Ray Allen is particularly surprising in this film, as the 1990s had a long list of NBA stars turning in embarrassing performances.  Acting seems natural to Allen, who very believably conveys an angry youth who is being pulled in every direction.  It is possible he experienced many of the same things his character “Jesus” did, as the performance brings as much emotional grounding to the film as his ball playing brings legitimacy.

Beer Two

There is a subplot in the film involving a Hooker with a Heart of gold (Milla Jovovich) which seems to want to throw out every possible cliché. What is worse, though, is there doesn’t seem to be any reason for the subplot.  It has no direct bearing on the story, other than to expand the run time to over 2 hours.

Even the "Air Jordans" subpot is more

Even the “Air Jordan” subpot is more relevant.

Beer Three

There are a lot of digressions from the core storyline in He Got Game which really have no reason to be here other than overindulgence.  I get the feeling many of Denzel’s scenes were expanded/added in order to give him more marquee value on the film, as in 1998 he was becoming very bankable.

Spike Lee sometimes pushes his point a bit too strongly.  Heavy-handedness is a common claim people have made against his films, and He Got Game definitely goes that direction.

Subtlety isn't Lee's greatest strength...

Subtlety isn’t Lee’s greatest strength…


He Got Game is a very watchable, if overlong Spike Lee joint. A must watch for Lee fans or basketball fans.


About Oberst von Berauscht

Oberst Von Berauscht once retained the services of a Gypsy to imbue in him the ability to accurately describe the artistic qualities of a film up to seven decimal points. To maintain this unique skill, he must feast on the blood of a virgin every Harvest Moon, or failing that (and he usually does), he can also make a dog do that thing they do where they twist their heads slightly (you know, when they're confused about something) at least a few times a week. I've gotten way off track here... The point is, Oberst is one of the website's founders, so... yeah

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