Smiling air to air
Michael Jordan to the Max
Review by Ross Anthony

MJ retired in 1998. That seems like a dream ago, by now he's become an intangible legend, a symbol of excellence ... or at least one of history's top athletes in the fan's mind. In my mind. This IMAX film offers us the pleasure of seeing him play again; the recent past dribbles, drives to the hoop, drops the tongue, jams! (I must confess that my Chicago upbringing may slightly bias this review.)

In the opening "shot," Mike launches into the air with his famous "free-throw line leap." During the ten feet of super slowmo flight toward the basket the camera appears to swing along side one hundred and sixty degrees. The photo above gives insight into how this "Matrix" effect is accomplished. Understandable or not, it's a beautiful intro to this jockumentary. So sweet in fact, that they run it again at the end of the flick.

The meat and potatoes of "MJ to the Max" is MJ in the game. Half (or more) of which is his last championship series in the NBA. In classic documentary style, such notables as former Bull's coach Phil Jackson, announcer Red Kerr and others talk about Mike in inserts and voice-overs. Of course, Mike talks about Mike from philosophy to family. Also tossed in for color is a collage of Mike TV commercials and a more intimate look at "that baseball thing."

It's a nice mix of ingredients that promises not only reminiscing, nostalgia, and inspiration, but added inside family sentiments as told by Mike. In fact, the film's most touching moment lies not in the visual, but in the audio "I might look out into the crowd and see a father and a son, they might not even notice me see them, I wonder if they have any idea how much I want to be them."

A player and fan of the sport, I enjoyed witnessing it on the big screen ... seeing the pro's as the giants that they are. Though not logistically possible, I still wanted the camera to be taken out of the stands and thrust into the game, strolling on the court.

Segments alone with Michael practicing in his early morning solitude would have been sweet ... or the pick-up games that he surely must still be playing somewhere. These might have been places where that big IMAX Camera could have been dollied around on the court as if another player, or better yet -- Michael himself. Recreate a slam-dunk as seen from the eyes of MJ! Let us all ride on his back to the rim!

This is the film's weakest link, the lack of more such moments where the IMAX camera is put into the action. And for this shortcoming, I'm tempted to give the film a B+. But in all honesty, I haven't yet seen an IMAX film that pulls at my heart strings like this one. The "emotional" element as MJ and the Bulls often refer to in this film, certainly scored big in my heart - but again, I've got roots in Chi-Town.

Btw: A nifty 20-page activity magazine for kids can be downloaded at It's called "Heroes: an activity guide."

  • Michael Jordan to the Max. Copyright © 2000.
  • Starring Michael Jordan (who else?).
  • Directed by Don Kempf.
  • Narrated by Laurence Fishburne.
  • Produced by James Stern, David Falk, Don Kempf at Giant Screen Sports/NBA Entertainment/Stern.


Copyright © 2000. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:03:38 PDT