‘Carmelo’s Way’: All Spark and No Substance

I’ve long despised Carmelo Anthony, but only because he plays against my Utah Jazz every NBA season. After watching the engaging, but ultimately underwhelming docudrama, Carmelo’s Way, however, I feel compelled to admire the man. Anyone who grows up in the projects of Brooklyn, New York and makes it into the big leagues deserves some level of respect – even if they do play on the other team.

Produced by Docurama (They Came to Play) and directed by Michael Smit, Carmelo’s Way (first featured as a reality show on BET J), takes an in-depth look at the life of Denver Nugget’s forward Carmelo Anthony. Through a combination of archived game footage and onsite interviews we are privy to Melo’s off-screen exploits – his rigorous training regime, the numerous charity events he attends, etc. The curtain gives way for a more intimate perspective on what it takes to be an NBA superstar.

While I found the docudrama fascinating, I also felt short changed. This is a very brief look at a conflicted, but ultimately successful persona; one that fails to find any negatives in its subject, unless by accident (at one point Melo vehemently tells his fitness coach Idan Ravi to stop talking). The big brawl in New York’s Madison Square Garden, of which Anthony played a vital role, makes a brief appearance, but is quickly brushed under the rug. Carmelo’s Way does not focus on such “trivial” details.

Smit’s film spends far too much time building up Anthony’s image, rather than casting light on who he truly is. The film plays like a public relations tour run amok. By film’s end you’d think the former Syracuse star invented a cure for cancer, such is how we treat our celebrities these days. I want to see what happens when all of those cameras turn off; when the real personalities reveal their true nature, for better or worse.

Of course, that’s impossible – Melo is a superstar, in the vein of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James (both of whom are seen here lingering in the background at times). No one wants to know their true nature perhaps because deep down we already know what it entails – that most of these talented individuals hail from the dark corners of society, places that we typically avoid. Yet, these gritty streets produce some of the greatest basketball players in the world. Oh, the irony!

“In New York there’s a basketball court on every corner,” Melo says. “You walk outside and everybody’s got a basketball. There’s a court right outside in the middle of the projects, so that’s all we played – basketball was all we really knew.”

It’s worth the gamble – to devote one’s life to the sport – we are told, because the perks afford one god-like status. So while guys like Melo an Lebron flourish, those that don’t make the cut fade into obscurity; many end up dead. Such are the consequences of dreams.

I’m not debasing Melo (or LeBron for that matter). He simply plays the game; if people paid me his salary to do what I love, I wouldn’t care, either. But the docudrama doesn’t reflect on Melo’s thoughts of stardom or his unique gifts. Sure he feels privileged, but there’s a deeper story hiding behind the glamour, one that explains Melo’s true feelings regarding his deceased dad, or the unhinged insanity that follows his every waking move. “This is the life I chose,” he suggests. Okay.

For films of this nature to work they must supply us with information we were heretofore previously unaware of. I knew about Melo’s generosity – he created H.O.O.D., and joined fellow NBA cohorts Steve Nash and Yao Ming in China for a charity event – it’s no secret the man uses his status to help others. But I want more – the unhinged biography of Carmelo. The one relating the consequences of such a life – something more along the lines of Casey Affleck’s I’m Not There, except without the acting.

Maybe that’s asking too much. As is, Carmelo’s Way gives us a brief look at Carmelo Anthony’s rise from a talented youth (he scored 50 points at the age of eight) and Syracuse champion to near-immortal status as a future NBA Hall of Famer. I didn’t learn much beyond what I already knew, but I respect Melo more than I did. Just don’t ask me to cheer for him.

RATING 6 / 10