Back in 1992, Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson made for an unlikely duo to grace a basketball court. In the film, the pair team up on the court and win. The film, written and directed by Ron Shelton, was a win with audiences, too. Even 30 years later it still draws interest from fans.
In this era of everything that’s old is new again, it makes sense that the film would get a re-boot. But it’s also fair to wonder if we really need a re-boot of this film. We might not need a re-boot, but the one we got is better than you’re probably expecting.
The new version captures some of the basic premise—a couple basketball hustlers, one white and one black, team up for a street ball tournament. Beyond that, the only connection to the first film is the shared name. This one comes from writers Kenya Barris and Doug Hall, directed by Calmatic. The director is no stranger to re-boots, having delivered a re-boot of House Party earlier this year. I didn’t enjoy that re-boot but this one found its groove.
In it, Kamal (Sinqua Walls) was a high school prodigy whose career went off the rails. His father (Lance Reddick) meant everything to him as a coach and guiding presence, and his illness took Kamal off his game. A decade later, he’s still playing pick-up games and he’s still got undeniable talent, but he never followed through on that early promise.
When he crosses paths with Jeremy (Jack Harlow) he dismisses him as less than a player. When Jeremy not only manages to get in Kamal’s head but also beat him at a shooting competition, his view changes. Eventually, the pair team to hustle other teams in pick-up games. Both still in need of money, they team for a two-on-two tournament that might be the kick start they both need to achieve their dreams.
The blend of comedy and drama works well here. Walls and Harlow—a musician making his feature acting debut—have good chemistry. The story thrives because it isn’t trying to be a re-make, it’s taking a similar idea and title while aiming to do its own thing.
The background of these characters and their issues are different. The way the film works out and the goals they achieve are different, too. It’s not a perfect film. There are some cliché plot points along the way and it drags a bit as it’s heading toward the third act. The film also never quite figures out what to do with the storyline for Reddick, which is a shame considering it’s one of his final screen appearances.
Still, it’s more entertaining than it has a right to be and it’s a lot of fun. Calmatic does a nice job bringing it all together and the script helps you buy into these guys and want to see them succeed.
White Men Can’t Jump drops on Hulu Friday, May 19.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.
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