January 22, 2018

A Basketball Family Team: My Worst Nightmare as a Comedy

Until yesterday, I would've insisted that movies involving Satanic possession were the scariest ones out there. How little did I know! For neither The Exorcist nor The Evil Dead came even close to preparing me for the hellish nightmare portrayed in Chon Chong-pal's A Basketball Family Team. This truly twisted sitcom concerns a young, female musician who marries into a family of athletes who somehow brainwash her into loving b-ball and leaving her piano playing behind. She's not the only one indoctrinated into this cult of unending fitness. The family intellectual, a nerdy engineer, goes from outsider to coach as he comes to realize that nothing could be more worthy of his time than reading old basketball magazines and then coming up with new plays and well-conceived strategies.

As someone who sees sports and art, more often than not, as enemies — the first cultivating a pack mentality; the latter, internal reflection — I was infuriated by this North Korean propaganda film extolling the virtues of basketball as the ultimate form of team-building and selflessness. Never mind all the bullying that takes place (especially by the family patriarch). Never mind the inability of any of the athletes to accept any viewpoint but their own (or the cowardice of the outsiders to hold their own). Never mind that none of the actors look like athletes. Placing the action in a world of ugly wallpaper and forced gaiety, the sinister truth is apparent: A world without art is a world without beauty or wit, even if a woman gets to be the captain of the team.

The sad part is I actually like sports movies as a rule. But if you're looking for a recommendation in this regard, try A Barefoot Dream (about soccer), Lifting King Kong (about weightlifting), or Crying Fist (about boxing). If it's basketball or nothing, then there's always the documentary Dennis Rodman's Big Bang in PyongYang. My nutshell review: It's only January but A Basketball Family Team may still end up being my least favorite movie of the year.

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