Professional basketball is for 14-year-olds.
At least, that’s the premise of Netflix’s new movie Amateur.
The drama, produced by San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker, is a cliché underdog story. It follows a talented, underprivileged kid with a learning disability, who uses basketball as a release. It’s pretty standard, inspiring sports fare — except the main character is in middle school.
With recent NCAA corruption charges flooding the media, Amateur is timely. It’s not a coincidental occurrence but a comical pairing.
Amateur‘s storyline is at first promising. It focuses on 14-year-old Terron, takes place in a seemingly middle-class neighborhood and appeals to a wide audience. The movie also shows the dark side of sports recruiting, which can be stressful and competitive. Coaches are overbearing, sponsors are controlling and players are cutthroat. Amateur accurately depicts these stereotypes, but fails to differentiate itself.
Like most sports movie, the scenes are annoyingly homogeneous. There are multiple nail-biting, buzzer-beater shots, teammate brawls and feel-good crowd-cheering moments. The movie lacks the oomph to stand out.
The movie’s music is cliché as well. The mixing is subpar and repetitive, and the cookie-cutter rap beats simply act as background music. At times, the music even detracts from the viewing experience.
Amateur is also disjointed. At first, the movie smartly weaves a learning disability side-plot into its storyline. The main character suffers from dyscalculia, a brain disorder that drastically affects mathematical ability. He uses inventive personal hand motions and rituals to conduct plays on the court. But after 45 minutes, the storyline disappears. Amateur is no longer a story of overcoming hardship and misses a prime opportunity to substantially address disabilities.
The movie also tries, and fails, to relate to younger generations. The main character is a teenage boy who heavily indulges in social media and rises to fame using these platforms. Terron’s obsession is also his downfall and is an accurate depiction of the unforeseen dangers of social media. While Terron’s path to sports stardom is inspiring, it’s not a path for everyone — the film fails to emphasize education as a worthy option, too.
Despite its promising premise, Amateur lacks focus and realism — and falls short of the best sports films.