Even with ties to the true story of high school hoops coach Jim Keith and his unlikely triumph with a 1960s Oklahoma high school girls' squad, the hackneyed, overlong "Believe in Me" is much too similar to a recent flood of inspirational basketball pics to distinguish it.

Even with ties to the true story of high school hoops coach Jim Keith and his unlikely triumph with a 1960s Oklahoma high school girls’ squad, the hackneyed, overlong “Believe in Me” is much too similar to a recent flood of inspirational basketball pics to distinguish it. Carefully — perhaps too much so — crafted by writer-director Robert Collector as a tale of overcoming tall odds, pic will send out minor ripples in a large ocean of simi-lar midrange indie projects and will have a hard time scoring in any commercial niche.

Clay (Jeffrey Donovan) is hired by Middleton High to coach the gals temporarily, which is fine by him since he really wants to coach the boys to move his career up a notch. But faced with countless obstacles, not least of which is ornery town potentate and ranch owner Ellis Brawley (Bruce Dern, who does everything but wear a black hat), Clay pushes his Lady Cyclones to be the best they can be. This means a run at the state championship, which, for dramatically absurd reasons, Brawley considers to be some sort of af-front to his authority.

Believe in Me

Production

A Visionbox Pictures and ChubbCo Film Co. presentation of a Believe in Me production. (International sales: Lichter, Grossman, Nichols and Adler, Los Ange-les.) Produced by Caldecott Chubb, John Bard Manulis. Executive producer, Sherman Dugan. Co-executive producers, Wayne Gilbert, Jon Karas. Co-producer, David Rubin. Directed, written by Robert Collector, based on the novel "Brief Garland" by Harold Keith.

Crew

Camera (color, Panavision widescreen, HD), James L. Carter; editor, Anthony Redman; music, David Torn; music supervisors, Frankie Pine, Wende Crowley; production designer, Mark Worthington; costume designer, Aggie Guerard Rodgers. Reviewed at Santa Barbara Film Festival, Feb. 6, 2006. Running time: 131 MIN.

With

Jeffrey Donovan, Samantha Mathis, Bruce Dern, Bob Gunton, Heather Matarazzo, Alicia Lagano, Diana Taurasi.
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