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Wayne Gretzky in In Search of Greatness.

  • In Search of Greatness
  • Directed by Gabe Polsky
  • Starring Wayne Gretzky, Jerry Rice, Pelé
  • Classification PG
  • 80 minutes

rating

Sports documentarians have many problems, but No. 99 isn’t one. At least that’s the case for Gabe Polsky, the director of In Search of Greatness, an eloquent and inventive look at self-expression in sports and to those athletes – like Wayne Gretzky – who succeed at the highest levels not by dint of sheer physical prowess, but by ingenuity and creativity.

Polsky – whose previous film was the winning Red Army, an absorbing look at the glory years of Soviet-era hockey – focuses on three innovative athletes: soccer’s Pelé, football’s Jerry Rice and hockey’s Gretzky. While speaking to the Great One himself is an obvious choice when making a film about greatness in sport, it’s doubtful Polsky could have anticipated the level of insight, articulateness and self-awareness of hockey’s most prolific scorer.

Listening to Gretzky describe the way he would watch and break down a televised NHL game as a kid is simply astonishing. And if Pelé is less of a compelling interview subject, other talking heads deftly flesh out the film’s ideas about what begets athletic excellence. A great doc from Polsky; one more assist from Gretzky.

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