Mavericks Fans Will Cheer New Dirk Nowitzki Documentary The Perfect Shot. But Will Others?

Nowitzki: The Perfect Shot.
Director:
Sebastian Dehnhardt.
Writer: Sebastian Dehnhardt.
Where It's Playing: The 2015 Dallas International Film Festival.

Anyone who follows the NBA knows Dirk Nowitzki. His basketball talents are revered nationally and internationally alike. Locally, though, he's a legend, the unquestioned brightest star on the Dallas Mavericks' roster.

And why not? Nowitzki's story is a fun one on the surface. He appears to be an all-around nice guy plucked from relative obscurity in Germany to come and play for the Dallas Mavericks. But with his new documentary, Nowitzki: The Perfect Shot, director Sebastian Dehnhardt aims to show how calculated Dirk's career path has been. To do so, the German documentarian explores the Dallas Mavericks hero's relationship with his mentor, shooting instructor Holger Geschwindner, and how it shaped Nowitzki into the player he is today.

Is it a great film? No, it's not. Not as a standalone effort. (Interestingly, this film isn't a standalone: There are two versions of it; one intended for American audiences and another for German crowds. The Dallas International Film Festival, where we saw the movie, is screening the American version.)

But it's a good enough film, and most any Nowitzki or Mavs fan out there will surely appreciate this its efforts. There's new insight to be had here, that's for sure.

For instance, the film, a large portion of which is subtitled from its star and crew's native German tongue, shares Nowitzki's back story quite well, explaining that his father was a champion handball player, and that Dirk grew up playing various sports. He had a knack for basketball, obviously, but it wasn't until he hit 15 years of age that the sport became his focus. That's when he met Geschwindner, who spotted Nowitzki playing a game and offered to help the young player reach his full potential.

Geschwindner is quite a character himself: He not only knows the sport of basketball inside and out, but he studies math and computer science to develop different techniques to help his prized pupil put something new into his “bag of tricks” each year. One example of this is Geschwindner's notion that scientifically finding the perfect angle and speed for a free throw should improve one's shooting results.

Nowitzki's less of an oddball. On film, he comes across just as affable and humble as anyone would expect; he never blinks or is taken aback when someone comes up to ask him for an autograph. If anything, he comes off as too humble and set in his belief that there are many other players that he feels are better at the game than he is. That said, the film also reassures the notions that he's a hard worker and hard on himself when he makes mistakes.

But the film itself doesn't quite pack the punch as it could have. In the end, it just re-tells Nowitzki's youth and the Mavs' history as a team once Dirk arrived. It never really adds much extra depth to the story. If you've been around Dallas or basketball at all in recent years, you know well this tale. If you're new to the story, you'll likely come to appreciate Nowitzki's abilities, but you won't necessarily get swept up in the circumstances surrounding them; the film doesn't really build much tension like the best sports documentaries do. When it relives the Mavericks' NBA championship run from 2011, I experienced a bit of nostalgia — but I'm a Mavericks fan. An outsider wouldn't necessarily feel so invested.

But the insiders will get what they want: For Dallas sports fans, this documentary comes off as a love letter to one of this town's favorite stars, a down-to-earth guy who just happened to make it big in a sport he loves.

No new sports documentary grounds are broken, and better-made films can be found in ESPN's 30 for 30 series. It's a film that very clearly cares deeply about its subject, though. And that counts for something.

Grade: B.

Nowitzki: The Perfect Shot is screening locally as part of the 2015 Dallas International Film Festival. Head here for future screening dates and more information on the festival as a whole.

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