While director Spike Lee’s love of the game of basketball is prominently on display in the “day-in-the-life” documentary Kobe Doin’ Work, the no-holds-barred access to L.A. Lakers’ superstar Kobe Bryant doesn’t have the depth nor heart of the acclaimed filmmaker’s other sports-related efforts, such as Jim Brown: All American or He Got Game. However, that doesn’t make the worth seeing Kobe Doin’ Work any less exhilarating to watch.
Lee brings his considerable talents to bear in Kobe Doin’ Work, giving viewers a chance to observe Kobe Bryant doing what he does better than most other men alive. The day Spike chose to film was during and after one of the season’s biggest games leading up to the 2007-08 NBA playoffs. On the schedule: a pivotal late season game with the rival Antonio Spurs.
Kobe Doin’ Work first aired on ESPN earlier this year, offering a unique perspective of Bryant, along with head coach Phil Jackson and the Lakers, both on the court and in the locker room, thanks to Spike’s team of 30 cameras, which relentlessly followed number 24, as he and his team pound the Spurs offense to victory. Armed with 13 additional cameras and a mic’d up Kobe, Lee and his team capture the star doing “work” from multiple vantage points, including that of Spike’s own court-side seat.
During half time, the cameras keep rolling inside the locker room as Phil, Kobe and the team watch clips from the first half while Jackson and Bryant dissect the game’s progress.
Yet while Kobe Doin’ Work gives us the opportunity to experience a matchup of two of the NBA’s great teams from angles not seen during a typical game broadcast, our access to the 2008 MVP, unfortunately, begins and ends in the Staples Center. And because our look inside begins and ends in and around the Lakers’ home court, the film offers very little insight into who the shooting guard is off the court. The few moments where we do get to see a glimpse of Bryant away from the hardwood – like seeing him grab a few post-game hugs with his wife and kids – are few and far between, but end up being some of the portrait’s most absorbing moments.
Granted the director was not shooting for an expose of Bryant away from basketball, and the film is titled “Kobe Doin’ Work” – however watching such a tuned athlete in everyday activities stood out for me as highlights of the documentary.
The DVD edition of Kobe Doin’ Work offers two versions of the film, one offering an introductory commentary by director Spike Lee. Both feature an uncensored edition of the film featuring the four-letter words ESPN couldn’t air during the TV presentation. To augment the rare footage, Kobe provides a voiceover track which he recorded just hours after dropping 61 points on Spike Lee’s beloved New York Knicks on February 2nd of this year. The commentary shifts between very analytical, sometimes monotonous, points about the game, to entertaining anecdotes about members of the rival Spurs and his own teammates.
Since the Lakers began to blow out San Antonio during the game, Kobe was allowed to get rest during much of the fourth quarter, which also wasn’t aired during the TV presentation. The DVD’s Deleted Scenes feature the fourth quarter of the game, but breaks away from the format, ultimately leading into an enjoyable Q&A session between Spike and the film’s titular star. The after-game Press Conference is also featured with the deleted scenes, featuring Kobe discussing the team’s mindset and defense during the game, with one of his daughters in his arms. One reporter even comments on his daughters’ “Daddy For M.V.P.” signs, which they proudly displayed during the game. Another nice moment, but again, it only teased aspects of the player’s life.
There’s also a Photo Montage presented in truly Spike Lee signature fashion, containing black and white images, set to dramatic instrumental music, which harkened Spike’s dramatic films – which would take pause to visually spotlight a character’s emotional condition with B/W or sepia stills. The music-driven montage is well done and the photos are stunning. However, being a motion graphic designer myself, I felt it could have greatly benefited from at least a “Ken Burns’ Effect” here or there, if not a wholly more thoroughly mapped out sequence.
A short E:60 Behind the Scenes featurette discusses the making of the film and the unprecedented access Spike Lee, ESPN Films, the producers and the camera crew were given to Kobe, Phil Jackson’s locker room, and The Staples Center’s facilities. There are interview clips with Spike Lee, producer Butch Robinson, and Director of Photography Matthew Libatique – whose 15 HD cameras were all trained on Kobe to capture every aspect of his game that day. The segment does the job, but is way too short to have any real impact on viewers.
Kobe Doin’ Work also features the first score ever written by Grammy-winning musician Bruce Hornsby and the original song Levitate, and the DVD features the music video from the song.
For true fans, Upper Deck has created a special, limited edition Kobe Bryant trading card that will only be available inside the first thirty-thousand DVDs. The nicely-designed card features a dynamic image of Bryant, along with detailed stats, however mine suffered from slight damage, due to packaging without any protection while probably bouncing around loose inside the DVD case. It was still a nice add-on none the less.
The special features are rounded out with the Game Only Experience – without commentary – and the Broadcast Version of the film.
If you’re a basketball fan looking for a new and unique way of viewing the game, a Lakers fan who can’t get enough of your team, or a Kobe fan looking for more…well, Kobe… then Kobe Doin’ Work is not to be missed.
- Tags: Los Angeles Lakers | NBA | The Staples Center
- People / Bands: Antonio Spurs | Bruce Hornsby | Butch Robinson | Kobe Bryant | Matthew Libatique | Michael Jordan | Phil Jackson | Spike Lee
- Shows / Movies: He Got Game | Jim Brown: All American | Kobe Doin' Work
- Genres: Drama | Sports
- Story Types: Home Theater | Reviews | Snapshots