Ryan Demers and Paul Pendell’s documentary feature Battle for the Boot explores the history of the Denver Kickball Coalition, framed within a focus on the 2009 season, where two divisions of six teams fought for a chance to win the championship trophy, the golden ski boot. It is at times an entertaining tale, full of rare personalities and drunken escapades, and at other times like a home movie or highlight reel that seems best suited for the league’s own sentimental purposes than for a broader audience. It’s the type of film that warrants two different cuts, frankly.
As a feature length documentary, it seems to exist for those who are in the league, and who know the people being interviewed. Even though some get more of their personalities showcased, it feels like they’re supposed to be far more compelling characters to the audience than they are. At a certain point everyone becomes a variation of drunk and disorderly, which is fine the first two or three times, but then it’s like… hanging out with drunk people isn’t fun unless you’re drunk too, or unless you really know and like those people anyway.
So if you’re a member of the DKBC, and you see this film, it’s all your friends acting drunk and silly, and that’s entertaining. Couple that with the memories (or non-memories) of the season being returned via footage of games and on-camera interviews, and it’s one big celebration of the league that a league member could really get into. Like a yearbook with broader stabs at explaining the league’s origins and history. If I’m in the league, this might not be long enough to cover everything I’d want to see in the film; I’d probably be wondering “what about when…” and expecting more.
As a non-league member, however, this is a film that gets boring to watch. It becomes repetitive interviews, drunken antics and anecdotes, some history from Joe Phillips and lots of out-of-appreciable-context game highlights. It’s, at best, a short documentary if you truly focus on telling the story of the league efficiently while wrapping in some personality of the players and maybe use the final playoffs, instead of the entire season, as your example of it all.
And speaking of those playoffs, while the film does help you follow them by telling you who is playing who, and who lost, it wouldn’t have been awful to have the games’ scores in the lower third during their highlight roll, for example, to help keep the actual moments within the game suspenseful and interesting. Otherwise it’s kick, run, catch, throw, who’s winning? What’s the score? Oh, I guess that team lost… who were they again?
So it comes down to who this documentary is for, and having two different versions of the film for the two audiences it appears to be aiming at wouldn’t be a bad idea. A more concise, focused short would spread the word of the league a greater distance, and for a league as dominant as the DKBC is, you can understand why they’d want to be understood a bit more (as the film shows, they get absolutely trashed and then eat some pancakes and school everyone else in a kickball tournament, or routinely kick the a***s of the teams from the larger, more professionally-run league WAKA (World Adult Kickball Association) or local rival WASA (Western Alternative Sports Association)). For all their beer league appearance and reality, the DKBC is a juggernaut, but a misunderstood juggernaut.
For the members of the league, you can leave the documentary as is. The more the merrier for the league, as it’s their video history and yearbook and why not fit in as much for those who can most easily appreciate the people on-camera? I get its appeal. But in that sense, it’s just like a home movie. You think it’d be interesting to everyone, but most often it winds up being interesting to you and those immediately involved, with diminishing returns the longer it goes on.
Which is my final take on this, and I’m critiquing it as a non-league member. In the short term, I like the idea of it, I like the personalities and the tales and I even enjoy the highlights. Over the course of ninety-plus minutes, however, there’s just way too much repetition, the focus gets scattered too easily and, frankly, I just don’t know enough of these people, and I mostly see their drunken side, to really be that interested that long.
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