The film documents the various rises and falls of the player with the three-pointer record and the slim build, showing us who Curry is off the court as well as on. It’s a very conventional but likable look at the kind of talent that doesn’t come along every day.
Stephen Curry: Underrated review
When we meet Steph Curry, he’s celebrating with his one-time teammate Kevin Durant. Curry’s just made NBA history by scoring 2,974 three-pointers (that number’s jumped to 3,390 since this movie was made if I’m not mistaken) and having an unbroken streak of 227 consecutive regular-season games with at least one three-pointer.
So what’s next for Curry? And just where did this astonishing player come from?
He wasn’t ever the tallest player around, least of all when he started playing little league games at age 9. However, he had focus, reach, and an eye and an arm for shooting. His dad Wardell Curry had been an NBA player for almost 20 years, so the pressure was on to become somebody (not least because Steph’s brother Seth was also a prospect; he’s currently on the Brooklyn Nets’ roster, though he’s recovering from surgery).
Looks can be deceiving
Steph was not someone who passed “the eye test,” which is to say you look at a player and think he belongs in the game. But he knew if he got the right chance, he could prove he was meant to be in the paint. Slowly his performance on his high school team brought him to the attention of scouts, and he ended up at Davidson College.
The rest of the team there looked askance at Steph. He was scrawny, short and couldn’t block his teammates. Plus, he performed poorly in his first season. However, his coaches started him again anyway, and he finally started playing up to his potential. He was benched afterward, but he knew something he didn’t the night before: He could do this.
The team, though? Less so. The Wildcats went through a terrible couple of seasons — a losing streak paralleled by Curry’s Golden State Warriors bad patch in 2021 and 2022. That’s where we join him in the present in Underrated. Steph ended up leading Davidson to its first NCAA tournament win since 1969. Can he do the same in the present?
A portrait of a likable basketball superstar
Compared to some of director Peter Nicks‘ previous movies — The Waiting Room, about a hospital tending to uninsured patients; The Force, about a police precinct struggling to establish trust with the rest of the officers’ community; and Homeroom, about Oakland schools — this is a softball subject for the documentarian.
That’s fine. Everyone deserves to make a doc on something they like that doesn’t necessarily have world-changing ambition every now and again. He appears to know what he’s doing, even though Underrated is a little dry at times. (Full disclosure: Nicks made a movie about my friend, filmmaker and writer Daniel Kremer, when he was a kid, but I do not know Nicks nor have I ever met him.)
Steph Curry’s personality is the star of this show
It’s difficult not to get caught up in Steph Curry’s story. He seems like a genuinely nice guy. Footage of him finally getting his college degree and playing with kids humanizes him instantly, despite the quadrillions of dollars he rakes in every year. And I wish the film showed us more of him just hanging out.
The camaraderie between players, the language they share — that’s not something you get a lot of in Underrated. The film only has so much to offer in that department, as it must necessarily rely on talking head interviews and archival footage of the games Curry’s played, which are not shot in a cinematic fashion.
To debut this documentary in the middle of the second season of stellar Apple TV+ basketball drama Swagger seems like a risky move, because that show’s creator, Reggie Rock Bythewood, has figured out how to make basketball cinematic and exciting. Still, Stephen Curry: Underrated offers an ingratiating if overlong look at a gifted player.
Watch Stephen Curry: Underrated on Apple TV+
Stephen Curry: Underrated premieres Friday, July 21 on Apple TV+.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper and But God Made Him A Poet: Watching John Ford in the 21st Century, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.