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Stephen Curry: Underrated

There’s something soothing about the crisp sound of a swish, when a shot in basketball from the three-point line is nothing but net. Four-time NBA Finals champ Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors, who broke the NBA record for most career three-pointers in 2021, has mastered such music. Apple TV, A24, director Peter Nicks, and producer Ryan Coogler have assembled to honor the man behind such a gratifying jump shot and more or less distilled his story to swishes and Cinderella story seasons. Curry proves impossible to root against, even when this doc's shabby framing of his modern adversities falls apart. 

In high school, Curry was considered too skinny and short for it—“150 pounds soaking wet” and about 6"2'. But Curry, with the wisdom of his pro-baller father, Dell Curry, developed a secret weapon, a crisp jump shot that weaponized the defensive line and could easily elevate his team’s lead by three, six, or nine points in a matter of nail-biting seconds. As this movie frustratingly shares only over the end credits, Curry changed how basketball teams use the defensive line it comes to shots. That’s a compelling point, but this movie doesn’t have the same analytical interest in the game or about deeply getting to know Curry. It’s just about what makes him keep going. 

Stephen Curry: Underrated” invests a surprising amount of time of the team who did not overlook him and, in turn, suffused his prodigious control of the ball with a great deal of confidence—his college team of Davidson College Wildcats under coach Bob McKillop. This relatively small basketball program believed in Curry’s skill over his size and created March Madness magic, as we see in this movie’s profiling of his college career. This chunk features interviews from Curry's still-giddy teammates and McKillop, and paired with grainy old footage of Curry (including his college sketch comedy days!) can make for the movie's most gratifying passages. 

Throughout, Nicks will then cut to the modern Curry and the latest ways he may be underrated. He works on a thesis we hardly learn about, finishing his college degree from his Davidson years, and he deals with another one of his infamous foot injuries. But this highlights more of the doc’s larger problems, that its greatest get—verite footage—is more about casual access than insight. It makes for mild modern-day drama and hints at a project that had little goal than collecting images of Curry for a few months without going too deep, or asking any questions. In the process, the humanized elements from the past clips are lazily shielded by the fact that Curry is now a star. Even a wacky celebrity moment in which he’s filming a Subway commercial, transported via green screen to Italy, is weak with curiosity despite the humor in its abrupt inclusion. “Stephen Curry: Underrated” doesn’t get into what it’s like to be a superstar like Curry, so much as put a sheen over his constructs. 

“Stephen Curry: Underrated” is the lightest feel-good sports entertainment possible in that it does have plenty of wins and losses from Curry's college and pro days, with the momentum of an underdog’s drive. Curry’s career is a concrete example of how confidence can be everything, especially for Curry, who calls it his “superpower.” Losing, as he learned from his days at Davidson under basketball master McKillop, is more of a mindset. Confidence—knowing what you’ve achieved in the past before as fact—is what keeps you going and gets you wins. 

“Underestimated” would be a better subtitle, but that doesn’t align with Curry’s "Underrated" brand, which started in 2019. In one of the doc's watching moments, we see Curry wearing a sweatshirt for his brand, and the movie avoids giving us the true context of this highly successful business venture he nonetheless founded in part to empower other young athletes like himself. It's yet another side-step from a more nuanced approach, but again Curry's story beats cynicism—however underwhelming this star portrait may be, it has a winner's spirit. 

Now available on Apple TV+. 

Nick Allen

Nick Allen is the former Senior Editor at RogerEbert.com and a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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Stephen Curry: Underrated movie poster

Stephen Curry: Underrated (2023)

Rated NR

110 minutes

Cast

Stephen Curry as Self

Bob McKillop as Self

Reggie Miller as Self

Kevin Durant as Self

Ayesha Curry as Self

Dell Curry as Self

Sonya Curry as Self

Director

Editor

Composer

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