The documentary as social analgesic has seldom had a better exemplar than “Kicking It,” an account of the fifth annual Homeless World Cup which, having been bought by ESPN, is precisely where it belongs. Screened as part of what increasingly seems like the Sundance Television Festival, docu has all the substance and in-depth character development of an NBC pre-event Olympics profile. It also spreads itself far too wide across a range of players and countries to generate any real empathy with its eventual winners and losers. Still, it promotes a good cause, as might any public service announcement.
Since 2001, the Cup competition has attracted teams of homeless men from around the world. Helmer Susan Koch, relying on far too much game footage (although this will work for ESPN), selects several men with variously troubled backgrounds and countries — Ireland, Spain, Kenya, Russia — and follows their progress throughout the tourney. Results are somewhat inspiring, but equally predictable, and the cinematic qualities of “Kicking It” are limited. Production values are adequate.