“Rise” stars Uche Agada, Ral Agada, Jaden Osimuwa, Elijah Shomanke, Anthony Abiola, Yetide Badaki, and Dayo Okeniyi. Released on Disney+ on June 24, 2022, the film has three brothers pursuing their dreams in the National Basketball Association.
The film was directed by Akin Omotoso, who also directed films such as “Man on Ground”, “Vaya”, and “The Ghost and the House of Truth”. The NBA is known for making specific players into legends due to their skills on the court and popularity. Those range from Michael Jordan to Shaquille O’Neal to even LeBron James. Now, the sport has birthed another set of famous players who’ll live on until the end of time, and they’re from Greece. The folks from Disney are continuing their series of fact-based sports dramas with a film centering on three Nigerian-Greek brothers whose last name is hard to pronounce. Despite having little to no experience with basketball, Giannis Antetokounmpo and his brothers successfully made their way to the top of their game, with two of them playing for the Milwaukee Bucks. However, their success isn’t without a few obstacles, which is where this original film from Disney+ comes into play. There was no doubt that I was looking forward to this latest sports drama for several reasons. One of them is that I deeply respect Giannis as a basketball player who serves as the film’s executive producer. The other reason is that they finally made a movie involving my favorite basketball team. It’s the Milwaukee Bucks, in case some of you forgot. Now that Giannis’ life story has been released worldwide, let’s see if it’s as good as his skills on the court.
The story follows the lives of Giannis Antetokounmpo (Uche Agada) and his brothers, Athanasios (Ral Agada), Kostantinos (Osimuwa), Alexandros (Shomanke), and Francis (Abiola). He and his family moved to Greece from Nigeria to provide a better life for themselves. They make a living attempting to earn enough money to pay the bills, but the reality of deportation constantly threatens their daily lives. While the brothers take their frustrations to the basketball courts, they realize they’re naturally skilled even though they haven’t played the sport before. With the help of a scout named Haris Eleftheriou (Efthimis Chalkidis), the family attempts to overcome the difficulties of immigration to make their marks in basketball history.
There were many times when I only recognized the players through their skills on the court. Giannis happens to be one of them. Before this movie, I was entirely in the dark about his personal journey to get to that position. I didn’t know about his life outside of the court, nor did I not know about his history. Now that I finally watched his story unfold in cinematic form with my family, it gave me a clear understanding of the significance of Giannis’ rise to fame. He only got into the NBA to give his family a better life since they lived as immigrants in a political climate. Giannis and his family moved from Nigeria to Greece to gain a normal living, but since he and his brothers were not granted legal citizenship, they spent most of their lives hiding from the authorities. Because of that, my respect for the Greek Freak and his family grew tremendously.
But, of course, it all comes down to the film’s quality. Like the other sports biopics, “Rise” offers a tale that’s essential for its inspiration and game-changing moments, but its execution can either emphasize its importance or dampen it. Fortunately, like Giannis, the movie defies the odds to provide a simplistic yet heartfelt drama that earns its inspiring nature. I was a little disappointed that it didn’t show much of the Milwaukee Bucks until the end, but after putting much thought into it, it’s probably for the best. Disney didn’t want to go out of its way to promote a full-length advertisement for the Bucks. This movie is all about Giannis and his family supporting one another amid their immigration crisis, with a few basketball scenes thrown in for good measure. Admittedly, I’m happy that they went in that direction because I had a nice time spending every moment with the Antetokounmpo family. Unsurprisingly, the movie didn’t reinvent the genre wheel regarding its formula, and a couple of sequences suffered a bit from its pacing. However, director Akin Omotoso and writer Arash Amel put plenty of effort into the film’s heartfelt themes and storytelling to overshadow some of its flaws.
The movie consists of many little-known actors portraying the Antetokounmpo family, including the Agada brothers playing Giannis and Thanasis. It’s good to see that the studio allowed them to cast some fresh faces into the film to promote more diversity, especially those from Nigeria. To me, it helps provide more authenticity to the community it’s representing, mainly the Nigerian culture. Regarding their performances, I thought they all did a good job delivering the charm and chemistry into the brothers, especially Uche Agada, who served as the film’s central emotional core. His dialogue towards the end was both wonderful and thoughtful. Dayo Okeniyi, known as Thresh from “The Hunger Games”, and Yetide Badaki were also strong in their roles as Giannis’ parents.
Overall, “Rise” dribbles past its genre formula to deliver a heartwarming representation of Giannis’ inspiring journey. While it’s far from a slam dunk, it shows further proof that Disney is still as capable of making decent family-friendly sports dramas as it is with animated content. With its compelling cast, a solid story, and Omotoso’s direction, this is another fitting addition to the Mouse House’s list of sports-related content. So if you’re in the mood for a feel-good sports drama, make sure you add this one to your Disney+ watchlist.