Review: ‘Shooting Stars’

Peacock's Sports Biopic Displays Lebron James And The “Fab Five’s” Superhero Origin Story

Let’s not pretend we don’t know who Lebron James is. The high school phenom turned #1 NBA Draft, turned 4-time NBA Champion and Finals MVP, turned Olympic Medal winner, turned activist, turned I Promise School sponsor (and helping many young kids in Akron, Ohio), and even turned into somewhat of a Hollywood player has had a lucrative and successful career both on and off the court. Sure, he has his haters (and “The Decision” didn’t help), but you really can’t deny the legacy he has made for himself. But with him dominating the NBA for the past 20 years, it’s hard to remember his beginning in Akron, Ohio as an All-American high school player and playing with his lifelong friends as members of the ”Fab Five” who took St. Vincent–St. Mary High School’s basketball team to numerous State Championships as well as the National Championship. And in Chris Robinson’s newest movie Shooting Stars, we get to see the early years of how the Fab Five came together and the rest is history.

Shooting Stars is named after the AAU basketball team that Lebron (Marquis “Mookie” Cook), Dru Joyce III (Caleb McLaughlin), Sian Cotton (Khalil Everage), and Willie McGee ((Avery S. Wills, Jr.) played on in grade school together (and the name of the book Lebron wrote about his time playing for the team) and follows the squad (originally calling themselves as the “Fab Four” until former rival Romeo Travis (Sterling “Scoot” Henderson) joins the squad) as they decided they would all go to the same high school together and work together towards glory. The one thing that stands out in Shooting Stars is the bond that these young men have together. It’s not ironic that there previously was a documentary on this team is aptly called More Than A Game as it really was for this group of friends turned found family.

But as Shooting Stars reveals, things almost didn’t turn out. When they first wanted to go to high school together Dru Joyce was told because of his size he would have to play on the Jr. Varsity team due to his short size. This didn’t sit well with Dru, who convinced his teammates that instead of going to the public school (and considerably blacker school) together, they would instead enroll in the local Catholic High School St. Vincent–St. Mary, which got them some animosity from others within the black community and labeled them “sellouts,” but they moved forward and persevered as a family/team on this new adventure.

So, off the Fab Four went, first having to prove themselves to the St. Vincent–St. Mary’s basketball coach Keith Dambrot (Dermot Mulroney), was not in favor of starting freshmen for the varsity team. But their talent and their ability to work very well together couldn’t be denied. And soon enough, they were all starters and leading their school to numerous championships over their four-year tenure at the school. Soon enough, Romeo (who had beef with Dru originally) joined the team and quickly jelled with them and they then became the “Fab Five” and continued climbing the ladder to greatness.

Shooting Stars probably took some dramatic and artistic liberties to make the movie more engaging, but overall did a great retelling of the Fab Five’s story. Shooting Stars mostly accurately chronicles the ups and downs of the team. As Lebron’s star started to shine and he received national attention, egos can get in the way, as well as just the usual high school shenanigans of young men trying to navigate the best years of their lives. But overall, this is a solid sports movie that showcases a phenomenal group of athletes who also were all best of friends.

From the trailers, Shooting Stars may seem like it’s going to place Lebron front and center. After all, he is “King James” and the leading NBA scorer. But actually, Shooting Stars focuses on the other members of the Fab Five just as much as Lebron, if not more. In fact, Dru seems to be the protagonist throughout the film and gives Caleb McLaughlin to wash a little bit of Stranger Things off of him (seriously, he needs to be Static Shock or a live-action Miles Morales!). Dru probably is the most complicated member of the group as he was the shortest player and constantly misjudged, even by his own father/coach Dru Joyce (Wood Harris). The other teammates also get a chance to shine, especially at things heat up for Lebron and he’s suspended and forced to not play after making a mistake in regard to innocently accepting gifts from fans.

Shooting Stars for the most part is interesting and engaging, but it’s not without its faults. Chris Robinson utilized an artistic flair similar to Ms. Marvel and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and having text randomly appear on screen at important moments as well as having Dru look at the camera and talk to the audience at a key moment for his character. It feels a little distracting at times and takes some getting used to. Shooting Stars is also told in a strange “chapter” format, which makes you wonder if this film might have been better served to be a Limited Series for Peacock instead of a feature-length film. Each chapter break could have been its own episode and could have fleshed things out a little better. Also, for fans who watched the More Than A Game documentary, Shooting Stars doesn’t cover much new territory, it’s just told in a different and more dramatic fashion.

Lebron fans (and even his haters) will enjoy Shooting Stars. As much as its focus is on chronically the highlights of Lebron and the team, it’s really about the bond between 5 lifelong friends who grew into a family and always had each other’s backs and pushed each other. The epilogue of the film displays that they are all still great friends who stay in touch with each other and what they have done since graduating high school. Of course, we know what happened with Lebron, but the other members of the squad’s stories are just as interesting and engaging to see where they all ended up. In a long line of sports films, Shooting Stars combines historical facts with a great story of a group of friends and is worth your time to watch.

Shooting Stars is currently streaming on Peacock.