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A sense of community scores in 'Basket'

Saturday, April 28, 2001

"The Basket" walks familiar ground for fans of American period drama suitable for family viewing.

Now at Star City in Bridgeville, the movie takes place during World War I. Two German orphans, Helmut (Robert Karl Burke) and his older sister, Brigitta (Amber Willenborg), have been taken in by the local pastor in a Washington farming community. Their nationality causes problems for some of the neighbors.


RATED: Rated PG for mild language and brief violence.



Another recently arrived stranger, teacher Martin Conlon (Peter Coyote) of Boston, also stirs things up. He demonstrates the relatively newfangled game of basketball and narrates, in serial form, a German opera featuring a magical basket that can help beleaguered peasants defeat invading barbarians. The symbolism becomes rather obvious, although thankfully not heavy-handed.

In the end, the movie offers simple messages of strength through community that are a bit of a letdown after the Sturm und Drang buildup of the opera and a climactic basketball game against barnstormers from nearby Spokane.

There's some good, understated acting in "The Basket," especially from Karen Allen as a farm wife who personifies quiet strength in the face of adversity.

Production designer Vincent DeFelice and cinematographer Dan Heigh re-create the period setting with great care. Yet director Rich Cowan and his fellow screenwriters hang a key plot point on the existence of a betting point spread, the concept of which dates to the late 1940s.

"The Basket" scores some points, but the fouls do add up.

-- Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

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