In Search of Greatness

A look at the unexpectedly oblique strategies of successful athletes.

Though its title manages to be simultaneously too vague and too Riefenstahlian, Gabe Polsky’s In Search of Greatness is an interesting look at what makes certain athletes so darn good. Polsky interviews Jerry Rice, Wayne Gretzky, and Pele about their childhoods and how they got into professional sports, with Michael Jordan appearing in archival footage as The Interview Who Got Away. The thesis that emerges is that while dedication and discipline have their place, it’s just as important to let children have unstructured free play, and the kids who were allowed to play their own way were more likely to become professional athletes. This is undoubtedly true, although a skosh of classism creeps in when Gretzky describes how parents are over-scheduling their kids with playdates and expensive classes — which may be the case for Gretzky’s circles, but not for all families across the socioeconomic board.

In Search of Greatness picks up from where the hella-Gallic John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection recently left off, but with a more playful approach heavy on the pop-culture references, including a bouncing-ball sing-along to Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2.” (That’s the “We don’t need no education” one.) That fart joke, though. It doesn’t keep the film from greatness, but it doesn’t help, either.

Rated PG-13.
Opens Friday at the AMC Van Ness 14.

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