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The Real MVP: The Wanda Durant Story: DVD + Digital Review

The Real MVP: The Wanda Durant Story DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com The Real MVP: The Wanda Durant Story
Movie & DVD Details

Director: Nelson George / Writers: Yolanda Lawrence, Ligiah Villalobos

Cast: Cassandra Freeman (Wanda Pratt), Tracie Thoms (Demetria), Sinqua Walls (Wayne Durant), Daniel Bellomy (Kevin Durant), Eli Baxter (Teenage Kevin Durant), Nic Few (Tony Durant), Demarius Mack (Teenage Tony Durant), Adrian Holmes (Coach Charles Craig), Romauld Hivert (Joel), Pauletta Washington (Barbara)

Original Air Date: May 9, 2016 / Running Time: 86 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated (TV-PG on air)

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired / Not Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: September 20, 2016 / Suggested Retail Price: $14.98
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover

Buy The Real MVP: The Wanda Durant Story at Amazon.com: DVD Instant Video

Kevin Durant's prolific career in the NBA has occurred in the shadow of LeBron James. For three out of four consecutive seasons, Durant was the runner-up in the league's Most Valuable Player voting.
He won MVP in 2014, handily topping James, but that award remains the biggest thing Durant has won, which means a championship has eluded him during his first nine seasons. The closest he got to a ring was in 2012, when his Oklahoma City Thunder made the NBA Finals and won Game 1 before losing four straight to -- who else? -- LeBron James.

Things are looking up for Durant. As a free agent in the summer, he signed with the Golden State Warriors, who last season set an historic record with 73 wins and were one highly questionable suspension, one injury, and one unprecedented collapse away from repeating as NBA Champions. One of the league's best players moving to one of the winningest teams in history makes the Warriors the favorites to stop LeBron and the Cavs from repeating and to give Durant the banner he of course craves.

LeBron's shadow doesn't just hang over Durant on the court. They no doubt compete for the same lucrative endorsement deals. Both superstars have also made their mark on the entertainment industry. Durant starred in the 2012 family comedy Thunderstruck, which barely got a theatrical release. LeBron played himself in Trainwreck, Amy Schumer and Judd Apatow's well-reviewed 2015 hit. LeBron has been attached to a Space Jam sequel for years. Durant had his life story, or rather his mom's, turned into the Lifetime original movie The Real MVP: The Wanda Durant Story. Believe it or not, this is not the first TV movie devoted to the mother of an NBA legend. In 1989, the Wonderful World of Disney gave us A Mother's Courage: The Mary Thomas Story starring Alfre Woodard as the woman who raised Isiah Thomas and his eight siblings in inner Chicago.

"The Real MVP: The Wanda Durant Story" stars Cassandra Freeman in the titular role as a mother of two, including a future NBA legend.

Taking its title from Durant's heartfelt and emotional 20-minute MVP acceptance speech, which is woven throughout the movie (and incidentally inspired a meme), The Real MVP dramatizes the future Basketball Hall of Famer's upbringing as one of two sons of a hardworking single mother just outside of Washington D.C. Wanda Pratt (Cassandra Freeman) works nights as a postal employee and sleeps during the day, so she's awake in the afternoon to see her boys. Her husband Wayne (Sinqua Walls), the boys' father, drifts in and out of the picture. That leaves the task of raising the two boys to Wanda alone, whose mother isn't crazy about having her and the grandkids stay with her.

To raise the funds needed to get the family a house of their own, Wanda begins working as an unlicensed hair stylist in the kitchen. She gets a house and talks the landlord into giving her $50 off each month's rent in exchange for styling his wife's hair. Wanda doesn't have much of a love life between her two jobs and raising Kevin and his older brother Anthony.
But she takes great interest in the boys' lives and encourages them to chase their dreams, signing them up to play basketball in a community program. From there, they're recommended to play AAU. Kevin thrives, eventually landing a scholarship to the University of Texas, where he plays for a year (quickly depicted with some clips of the real Durant in college) before going pro.

As the second overall draft pick, Kevin goes to the since-relocated Seattle Supersonics and Wanda follows him out there, given a year off from work by the USPS. Mom and big brother stick up for Kevin as clueless marketing suits try to give him an image makeover to "Hip Hop Kevin." Eventually, though, Kevin thanks his mother for what she's done, buying her a big house in a Maryland suburb and relieving her of her manager duties. When snow prevents him from making a flight, he sends Wanda to do it and she finds her new calling as an inspirational speaker.

Wanda Durant (Cassandra Freeman) encourages her two sons to chase their dreams, one uphill run at a time.

Does Wanda's story need to be told in this fashion? Probably not. But this is a mother who did all she could to provide for her kids, one of whom went on to be one of the best shooters in the history of basketball. I guess that's kind of notable, even if many of the incidents dramatized here are not. (One exception: the murder of Durant's coach,
whose death at age 35 prompted the jersey number he continues to wear to this day.)

Four months after premiering on Lifetime in the midst of the NBA Playoffs, The Real MVP hits DVD next week from Lionsgate, its cover choosing to highlight that Queen Latifah numbers among the movie's executive producers.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Real MVP looks about what you expect a new TV movie to look like on DVD in 2016. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation obviously lacks the detail and sharpness of Blu-ray counterparts (and HD broadcasts), but is untroubled in any noticeable way. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack does a pretty good job of distributing sounds and music (including a shoe-horned appearance by the Five Stairsteps' "O-o-h Child").

An emotional Wanda Durant (Cassandra Freeman), the real MVP, is comforted by her teenage son Tony (Demarius Mack) on The Real MVP: The Wanda Durant Story DVD's main menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The only on-disc extra is "Trailers", which lets you revisit the three short previews with which the disc opens, for Toni Braxton: The Movie Event, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, and "UnREAL." How enticing!

The other extra is a code for a digital copy with UltraViolet, which adorns the one-sided insert across from a plain gray disc in the slipcovered, eco-friendly keepcase.

The main menu loops a scored montage of mostly basketball clips.

"You the real MVP." The real Kevin Durant MVP acceptance speech that inspired this movie (and a meme) is excerpted throughout.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

An appreciation for Kevin Durant and NBA basketball may give you more interest in The Real MVP than your typical Lifetime original movie. It did for me. Unfortunately, it's still a Lifetime original movie and suffers from the same low production values and modest dramatics of most of its ilk. Lionsgate's DVD is basic but sufficient, its inclusion of a digital copy a nice touch for those who are onboard with the studios' shift away from physical media.

Buy The Real MVP: The Wanda Durant Story on DVD at DVD / Instant Video

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Reviewed September 14, 2016.



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