By now, I’ve reached the purpose of pity for basketball luminaries like Jerry West and Magic Johnson and Pat Riley.
Because no one paused and mentioned, “Do we really need this?” there should have been a two- or three-month interval by which they have been sitting down with a distinct documentary crew each different day to retell the identical tales in regards to the Showtime Lakers, the Buss household and the transition from the ’80s Lakers dynasty into the ’90s Lakers dynasty led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
The Bottom Line
Well-covered terrain elevated by a larger-than-life character.
Already coming after HBO did the scripted model of this story with Winning Time, we’ve been handled to Apple TV+’s They Call Me Magic, Hulu’s Legacy: The True Story of the LA Lakers and now we’re about to wrap 2022 with HBO’s Shaq.
On a purely sensible stage — and I’m a sensible man — the four-part Shaq is totally pointless. The second and third episodes of Shaq recount the identical Lakers saga lined within the center episodes of Legacy, however with fewer voices and far much less candor and depth. Most of the primary episode is devoted to the early chapters of Shaquille O’Neal’s life and his tenure with the Orlando Magic, beforehand chronicled within the middle-tier ESPN 30 for 30 movie This Magic Moment.
Only the fourth episode, from his commerce to the Heat to his present tenure as a tv speaking head and relentless business pitchman, is “new” and options among the extra emotional components within the collection. But it covers 18 years of terrain in 45 rushed minutes, and its “Hey, Shaq became a businessman!” revelations are near-identical, by design, to the same chapter in They Call Me Magic. Anyway, it’s not like Shaquille O’Neal says “No” to many interview alternatives nor like he’s a cagey particular person, so “Shaquille O’Neal tells all!” — particularly when he actually largely doesn’t — is just a restricted incentive.
On a beneficiant stage — and I’m additionally a beneficiant man — one in all my most frequent complaints about biographical docs is after they take a dry, distanced strategy to their topic and don’t let that topic’s character affect the storytelling aesthetic in any respect, and in Shaq, director Robert Alexander has completely made a documentary that’s knowledgeable by Shaquille O’Neal’s larger-than-life model. Shaq the character is bombastic and enjoyable, so Shaq the docuseries is bombastic and enjoyable, and it shows its myriad influences proudly. It isn’t in the slightest degree revelatory and it comes throughout solely because the model of Shaquille O’Neal’s life that Shaquille O’Neal would need to have lined, however there’s enjoyment available right here.
“This is a true story, told by Shaq. So… you know,” reads the introduction to what’s known as “Film 1.” Shaq himself explains additional, “The world knows I’m a bullshitter. Sometimes when you tell a story, you wanna add a little barbecue sauce.”
Alexander, who did related personality-capturing duties on the Kid Cudi-centric A Man Named Scott, lets Shaq’s bullshit steer the documentary, utilizing the self-mythologizing Big Aristotle’s vaunted love of and centrality in broader widespread tradition as a tool. Certain episodes are structured with cheeky animation or online game influences and interludes. Another is fueled by silent film intertitles and musical selections, albeit with none clear justification as a result of regardless of how a lot Shaq’s love of comedian books and hip-hop and different mainstream artwork types is established, it’s a lot more durable to pinpoint what appreciation he has for silent films or what silent films Alexander is paying homage to. As greatest I can determine, the silent film segments are supposed to mirror how Shaq’s specific taste of supersized heroism or unapologetic villainy — when you occurred to root for any of the groups he bullied relentlessly over 10+ years — harkened again to an easier time.
The collection is structured round classes conveyed by Shaq’s sainted mom Lucille and his stern-but-loving army dad, round tall — 7 foot 1 — tales informed by members of O’Neal’s inside circle and round amusing and amused overlapping variations of comparable tales from Shaq’s migratory childhood, his school tenure and NBA days. The collection is at its greatest while you get small variations of reminiscences from siblings and former coaches and teammates, with these deviations underlining Shaq’s narrative barbecue sauce.
In addition to the aforementioned media nods, Alexander’s bag of tips contains rotating leather-based interviewing chairs — hardly ever justifying the rotation — small symbolic re-enactments and splashes of onscreen textual content, charts and different items of chaotically font-ed busy-ness. It’s lots, nevertheless it’s by no means boring even while you get a speaking head like Jeanie Buss or Penny Hardaway who you recognize you’ve seen recite the identical anecdotes in different movies, often higher.
I don’t have a clue if I might even need Shaq to be filled with self-reflective insights. The fourth episode, by which he offers truncated, however nonetheless honest, ideas on the deaths of Kobe Bryant and his father and admits to his youthful failings as a husband and pop, comes the closest. It’s actually stunning while you get something that appears off-script, like a snapshot of the strained relationship between Shaq and Lakers coach Gary Vitti, one other of these people who find themselves on their third main sports activities documentary look of the yr.
More frequent, although, is Shaq sharing the issues he needs to share and Alexander scrambling to provide connective tissue. Somehow Shaq goes from being a clumsy outsized adolescent to an honest German highschool participant to abruptly the perfect participant within the United States in his junior yr of highschool with out a lot of an arc. His journey from school benchwarmer to celebrity boils right down to, “Stanley Roberts got hurt.” If you don’t know something in regards to the decline of the Orlando Magic you’re not going to get greater than, “Yup, egos” — This Magic Moment, which had Shaq and Penny sit collectively for his or her interviews, did MUCH higher with the dynamic that facilitated their rise after which fall. His struggles with free-throws and the origins of the infamous Hack-a-Shaq defensive technique can’t be averted, however that doesn’t imply I gained any new understanding. This is probably the blandest model I’ve ever seen of the tensions between Shaq and Kobe. Etc., and so forth.
Once Shaq was destined to be frivolous, I wanted it had given me much more frivolity. Shaq’s rap profession is boiled down to 1 story about an Arsenio Hall look with Fu-Schnickens. His appearing profession is lowered to a uninteresting point out of Blue Chips, however nary a dialogue of Steel or Kazaam or numerous cameos and TV exhibits. It’s unusual how Ernie Johnson is the one member of O’Neal’s TNT studio workforce to make himself accessible.
After a gap episode that runs over an hour, Shaq rapidly settles right into a 45-minute-episode rhythm, which is not less than appropriately fast-moving for a present a few man nicknamed “Diesel.” But can we please take a break right here? There are different stars, franchises and even sports activities that might in all probability use somewhat shine.