By now, I’ve reached the purpose of pity for basketball luminaries like Jerry West and Magic Johnson and Pat Riley.
As a result of no one paused and mentioned, “Do we actually want this?” there should have been a two- or three-month interval by which they had been sitting down with a distinct documentary crew each different day to retell the identical tales concerning 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 Backside Line
Nicely-covered terrain elevated by a larger-than-life character.
Already coming after HBO did the scripted model of this story with Profitable Time, we’ve been handled to Apple TV+’s They Name 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 degree — 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 coated within the center episodes of Legacy, however with fewer voices and far much less candor and depth. A lot of the first 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 Second.
Solely the fourth episode, from his commerce to the Warmth to his present tenure as a tv speaking head and relentless industrial pitchman, is “new” and options a number of the extra emotional parts within the collection. However it covers 18 years of terrain in 45 rushed minutes, and its “Hey, Shaq turned a businessman!” revelations are near-identical, by design, to the same chapter in They Name 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 barely a restricted incentive.
On a beneficiant degree — and I’m additionally a beneficiant man — considered one of my most frequent complaints about biographical docs is once 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 wish to have coated, however there’s enjoyment available right here.
“This can be a true story, instructed by Shaq. So… ,” reads the introduction to what’s known as “Movie 1.” Shaq himself explains additional, “The world is aware of I’m a bullshitter. Typically while you inform a narrative, you wanna add just a little barbecue sauce.”
Alexander, who did related personality-capturing duties on the Child Cudi-centric A Man Named Scott, lets Shaq’s bullshit steer the documentary, utilizing the self-mythologizing Huge Aristotle’s vaunted love of and centrality in broader standard tradition as a tool. Sure episodes are structured with cheeky animation or online game influences and interludes. One other 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 finest I can determine, the silent film segments are supposed to replicate 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 a less complicated time.
The collection is structured round classes conveyed by Shaq’s sainted mom Lucille and his stern-but-loving navy dad, round tall — 7 foot 1 — tales instructed by members of O’Neal’s inside circle and round amusing and amused overlapping variations of comparable tales from Shaq’s migratory childhood, his faculty tenure and NBA days. The collection is at its finest while you get small variations of reminiscences from siblings and former coaches and teammates, with these deviations underlining Shaq’s narrative barbecue sauce.
Along with the aforementioned media nods, Alexander’s bag of methods contains rotating leather-based interviewing chairs — not often 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 so much, but it surely’s by no means boring even while you get a speaking head like Jeanie Buss or Penny Hardaway who you’ve seen recite the identical anecdotes in different movies, often higher.
I don’t have a clue if I’d 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 pa, comes the closest. It’s actually shocking 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.
Extra frequent, although, is Shaq sharing the issues he desires to share and Alexander scrambling to present connective tissue. One way or the other Shaq goes from being a clumsy outsized adolescent to an honest German highschool participant to instantly the most effective participant in the US in his junior yr of highschool with out a lot of an arc. His journey from faculty benchwarmer to celebrity boils right down to, “Stanley Roberts bought damage.” When you don’t know something concerning the decline of the Orlando Magic you’re not going to get greater than, “Yup, egos” — This Magic Second, 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. That is maybe the blandest model I’ve ever seen of the tensions between Shaq and Kobe. And so on., and so on.
As soon as Shaq was destined to be frivolous, I needed it had given me much more frivolity. Shaq’s rap profession is boiled down to at least one story about an Arsenio Corridor look with Fu-Schnickens. His performing profession is decreased to a uninteresting point out of Blue Chips, however nary a dialogue of Metal 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 obtainable.
After a gap episode that runs over an hour, Shaq rapidly settles right into a 45-minute-episode rhythm, which is at the least appropriately fast-moving for a present a few man nicknamed “Diesel.” However can we please take a break right here? There are different stars, franchises and even sports activities that might most likely use just a little shine.