Rise and Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story

As pedestrian as its title, sports docu "Rise and Shine" finds little of real interest in the story of Jay DeMerit, a Midwesterner who successfully went abroad to find a place in pro soccer.

As pedestrian as its title, sports docu “Rise and Shine” finds little of real interest in the story of Jay DeMerit, a Midwesterner who successfully went abroad to find a place in pro soccer. Pic treats every routine detail like a revelation, yet as told here, the subject’s uniqueness as a player, personality or tactical pursuer of an against-the-odds career fails to register. Pic opened Nov. 3 in 130 theaters nationwide (many just for a few shows), and its best chance lies with U.S. kids and teens for whom the sport still reps an underdog choice, with broadcast/DVD prospects possibly brighter.

Born into a highly athletic family, DeMerit played several sports in football-mad hometown Green Bay, Wisc., then soccer at the U. of Illinois. Disappointed when he wasn’t drafted by a major-league club, he decided to join fellow aspiring player Kieren Keane in knocking around Europe, trying to get on-the-spot tryouts.

Both were past typical draft age, DeMerit hindered as well by general dislike of Americans. But the pic laboriously overplays the deprivations its middle-class subject endured — as if surviving on little money, cheap grub, hostel lodgings, et al., were shockingly “dire situations” (as his father puts it) rather than the stuff of routine roughing it for youthful travelers now and generations past.

His play for an amateur club in London finally got him signed to Watford, for whom he soon played a major role winning a match against heavily favored Leeds United. (This also finally produces some actual game footage, of which there is far too little overall.) He became a fan favorite, was eventually appointed captain and got picked to play for the U.S. in its 2010 World Cup bid.

DeMerit is affable and enthusiastic enough. But he’s not particularly articulate, and no one else here, least of all his family and friends, has much insight to offer beyond “He had it tough” and “We were so proud of him.” Brit Keane, who urged DeMerit to come overseas in the first place, is simply dropped from the narrative once the latter’s career takes off.

DeMerit and others discuss the risks players run of being injured, cut, never drafted in the first place, etc. Yet the pic doesn’t mention injuries he’s suffered (including one that sidelined him for part of 2009) or the fact that his captaincy was a more complicated, compromised position than indicated here. While such omissions theoretically allow for maximum inspirational tilt, they actually deprive the chronicle of the flavorful ups and downs that characterize any pro career, and contribute to the pic’s personal-promo air.

Young co-helmers Nick Lewis and Ranko Tutulugdzija’s Kickstarter-funded effort is competently packaged, though musical choices (twangy banjo music for the U.S. heartland, a punk “God Save the Queen” for London) are too on-the-nose.

Rise and Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story

  • Production: A D&E Entertainment release of a Truth2Life production. Executive producers, Nick Lewis, Ranko Tutulugdzija, Evan Mundine, Frances Lynn, Betsy DeMerit, Schauble Family, Shawn Simao, Ian Pancer, Stuart Lewis/Lewis Family, David Karaba, Anh Lan Tran, Karen DeMerit, John DeMerit, the American Outlaws. Directed, written by Nick Lewis, Ranko Tutulugdzija.
  • Crew: Camera (color, HD), Zach Salsman; editor, Salsman; music, Kush Mody. Reviewed on DVD, San Francisco, Nov. 2, 2011. Running time: 92 MIN. Narrator: Dax Giornandi.
  • With: With: Jay DeMerit, John DeMerit, Kieren Keane, Bob Bradley, Aidy Boothroyd, Ray Lewton.