An unfocused nonfiction mishmash, This Is Not a Ball hastily investigates the history, appeal, and symbolic power of the soccer ball — and, more generally, the ball as an instrument of play — while also functioning as a promo piece for co-director Vik Muniz’s art installation in Rio de Janeiro’s Azteca Stadium.
That project, in which 10,000 soccer balls are arranged to form a giant soccer-ball design modeled after a Leonardo da Vinci illustration, is given an inordinate amount of attention by the filmmakers, who don’t seem to realize that the completion of the work (and the logistical hurdles that must be overcome) is dreadfully dull.
Unfortunately, the rest of the material proves no more compelling. Muniz hops from one locale and interview subject to another (including Cosmos‘s Neil deGrasse Tyson) to discuss topics — the “perfection” of the spherical shape, the role soccer plays in building communities and helping people transcend adversity — that the film handles with utmost glibness.
Glossy, superficial, and rife with scattershot tangents (Myanmar games of chinlone! Chinese spheres molded out of soil!) that make cursory arguments about balls’ socio-religious value, This Is Not a Ball is like a bad undergrad term paper — all highfalutin thesis, little coherent evidence.