REVIEW: Just Wright
This basketball movie nearly throws up an airball
Just Right: Rates a C-.
When one of the many video stores closed down, I was able to score all the seasons of The White Shadow, a favorite show from my childhood. I thought the premise of Just Wright would be like that – a former NBA star suffers a knee injury and learns a lot of life lessons when he’s not on the hardwood.
This movie took a few turns along the way, but unfortunately, played it a lot safer than White Shadow ever did. That show dealt with drug addiction, absentee fathers, racist cops, teen pregnancy and a whole host of
other things. This movie dealt with…well, recovering from a knee injury.
It stars Common, who I’m guessing is a rapper. When I see the opening credits and there’s a person with one name, it’s usually a rapper. Eve in Barbershop, Ludacris in Crash, Cher in Moonstruck…okay, not all the time.
I thought it was going to be hard for me to accept a love story involving Queen Latifah. She’s the type that I can’t see anyone falling for. Now, I’ve had crushes on the three other women in this movie at various times in my life – Phylicia Rashad (when she was on The Cosby Show), Pam Grier (in the 1970s, and again when Jackie Brown came out), and Paula Patton (when I first saw her as the teacher in Precious…that quickly ended when I found out she married that dope Alan Thicke). But Queen Latifah? I loved her character in Hairspray. I really loved her singing in Chicago. I just can’t see her as a love interest.
But all that works in her favor for this role. That’s exactly the type of character they’re going for – a woman that has a lot of male friends, just a lot of trouble finding a boyfriend.
A movie that has a sub-plot involving women trying to meet NBA players could’ve made things less romantic. I know when I watch An Officer and a Gentleman, I can never get past the fact that these women started out just trying to hook up with pilots because they have money and can get them out of their small town. Instead, this movie handles that well, but also makes it hard for us to believe some of the things that transpire in the third act.
Just Wright does a lot of things right, but also a lot of things wrong.
Right: The chemistry between Common and Latifah. I can’t remember the last film I rooted so much for a couple to hook up.
Wrong: It’s very predictable where this is going after the first 15 minutes. Someone should’ve called a time-out and talked to the writer.
Right: The opening date which isn’t the typical clichéd bad movie date. The man isn’t interested in Latifah, but he has a lot of fun spending time with her, before giving her the “let’s just be friends” speech.
Wrong: The sister and her attempt to become an NBA wife. They go over the top with her not even watching the game, but watching the crowd with binoculars to analyze everything the wives are wearing or carrying.
Right: The basketball scenes. As a gym rat, always great to see players like Dwight Howard and Dwayne Wade play some real ball.
Wrong: The basketball scenes. Watching Common dribble (he supposedly worked real hard to improve his game) between defenses, was like watching the Washington Generals against the Globetrotters. And when a character gets slammed on four times in a row, wouldn’t the coach bench that player? Not to mention…when was the last time you saw an NBA player get four slam dunks in the span of two minutes?
Right: Having the relationship build the way it did between Common and Latifah. So many rom-coms that are considered romantic, don’t show us why the characters fell so hard for each other. I’ve had three different women tell me The Notebook is their favorite all-time movie. Yet nothing about their courtship seems romantic. They get it right in this movie.
Wrong: The way the relationship worked near the end of the film. Latifah played high school basketball. Why not have a scene of them going one-on-one while he rehabbed from knee surgery? Why not change the way things went with the gorgeous sister re-entering the fray? Nothing about how the sister and Common work things out seems believable in any way.
Right: Using the Nets. I’m tired of it always being the Lakers, Celtics, or Clippers when movies need an NBA team.
Wrong: Using the Nets. It’s a bit of a stretch for us to belief they are on the verge of making the NBA Finals.
Right: A return visit to the old playground in the ghetto that he honed his skills as a kid.
Wrong: The return visit, which isn’t written nearly as well as it could’ve been. Maybe having him opening up and talking about his struggling childhood, or being a kid and playing for the love of the game and not the paycheck. Instead, we get a scene that starts strong, but ends like the one in Rocky III – with all the athletes coming over to praise the pro they idiolize.
The movie has lots of Common, but drops the ball when it comes to common sense. It also has a lack of humor, as well as more realistic situations regarding how NBA players would really act at a party. Maybe to get the permission of the NBA for all the various scenes they used, they needed a super-clean script.
The movie opens this weekend.
It didn’t bring it’s A-game, and had a strong bench (i.e. support cast) that should’ve been given more playing time.
Grading it on a sports movie curve, it gets a C-.