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Religious devotion and sports fanaticism make for awkward teammates in "Spirit of the Game," a clunky drama about faith and fellowship.
Based on the real story of the "Mormon Yankees," the movie starts with young DeLyle Condie (Aaron Jakubenko), a star on the University of Utah's basketball team in the mid-'50s, who after being jilted by his fiancée decides to leave school for an LDS mission. DeLyle is assigned to Melbourne, Australia, where he gets the door slammed in his face too many times to count.
He comes up with the idea to start a missionary basketball team to appeal to the Aussies' love of sports, which is reaching a fever pitch as the 1956 Summer Olympics are about to start in Melbourne. He must overcome the objections of his rigid mission president (Mark Mitchell) and the resistance of the Australian players the "Mormon Yankees" aim to train for the Olympics.
Australian writer-director J.D. Scott creates scene after scene of ponderous piety, leavened only by the unintended comedy from the ham-fisted melodramatics (the rival French basketball team literally twirl their mustaches) and the ludicrous staging of the team's on-court performances. The only saving grace is Kevin Sorbo, the former Hercules, lending some low-key gravity as DeLyle's father.
'Spirit of the Game'
Opening Friday, Oct. 7, in area theaters; rated PG for mild thematic elements; 94 minutes.