Taking a measured approach to a sensational life, “Long Shot: The Kevin Laue Story” is less the story of a young man’s growth and development than the world’s: Laue, a 6’9″ basketball phenom missing the better part of his left arm, arrives more or less fully formed in helmer Franklin Martin’s inspirational docu, resigned to his condition and determined to overcome nature’s mistake. What develops is the basketball community’s acceptance of something it would prefer not to confront, simply because it defies the norm. A natural for sports venues, the film (which recently played Gotham’s Quad Cinema) could also flourish on the educational circuit.
Despite the slam dunks and bling of the NBA, the sports world at its core is conservative, dealing as it does with statistics and formulae, and throughout “Long Shot,” one senses that Laue’s disability is not just an anomaly, but something that basketball professionals would prefer to see go away. Although they’re almost uniformly, and ultimately, supportive, most of the coaches interviewed are reluctant to calculate Laue’s chances beyond high school. “You’d have to be a really tough kid,” says UCLA coach Ben Howland. Howard Garfinkel, of the celebrated Five Star Basketball camp, is more blunt: “Not gonna happen,” he says of Laue’s chances of playing at the Division I collegiate level.
Laue’s struggle to defy the odds takes up the bulk of the docu, along with the obligatory biographical survey that sets the young man up as a paragon of stoic resolve, as well as a marvel of athleticism. The abbreviation of Laue’s arm was the result, in utero, of his developing-limb having been caught between his neck and umbilical cord; that the cord was wrapped around his neck was another problem. Moreover, Laue was born left-handed, without a left arm. Thus, everything he’s doing — as shown by the pic’s rich assortment of game clips, which make the case for his basketball fluency — is being accomplished with the “wrong” hand.
In contrast with many sports movies, factual or fictional, there’s no assurance that Laue is going to be triumphant. He doesn’t always make the last-second free throw; he occasionally crumbles under pressure. He sometimes frustrates his network of high-level supporters, who include likable high-school coach Patrick McKnight and the more prickly but stalwart Fletcher Arritt of Fork Union Military Academy (where Laue transfers in hopes of being scouted). While he gets a wealth of support from his mother and stepfather, Jodi and Jim Jarnigan, he nurses his grief for his late father, Wayne, who appears here in video footage, predicting the kinds of things for Kevin that are shown to be fulfilled in “Long Shot.” It’s sentimental, of course, as well as irresistible.
Tech credits are fine; Robin Soper’s music is supportive without being intrusive, and the game sequences look polished.