How can you tell if the documentary you’re watching is inspirational? In the case of Franklin Martin’s Long Shot, which tells the story of Kevin Laue, the first one-armed person to play Division I basketball, it’s not simply enough for the film to demonstrate how amazing Kevin’s achievement is. It also has to continually pound home its points via a seemingly endless series of sound bites that forms the chief content of the first half. None of which is to belittle Kevin’s achievements or determination—it’s simply to note that Martin would rather have people tell us how impressive his subject’s story is than to present that story to the viewers themselves. Ear-bleeding sentimental music only makes things worse. The pattern is broken, at least temporarily, in the film’s second half, when good vibes give way to visible struggle as Kevin toughs out the ruthless environment of a military academy. Only here does Martin’s film achieve the minimal requirement of the inspirational sports documentary: actually showing us the challenges its hero faces. Too bad this section of the movie is but a temporary reprieve from the obnoxious sentimentality.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 24, 2012