“In Memory of Lance Reddick.”
Calmatic hasn’t gone off to a great start in remaking classic 1990s films with his take on House Party, which did nothing to capture the exuberance of Reginald Hudlin’s 1990 original. When the trailer for his latest remake, White Men Can’t Jump, got released, I wasn’t looking forward to it, especially with Kenya Barris being involved a month after the dreadful You People was released. However, I am pleased to report that Calmatic’s take on White Men Can’t Jump is rather fun, though not as good as the original.
Read: SEE IT: New Trailer and Poster For ‘White Men Can’t Jump’
Calmatic doesn’t capture basketball with the same verve as Ron Shelton did back in 1992 when he teamed up with Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes. However, the scenes have enough style and energy to keep audiences entertained. What’s more: Jack Harlow and Sinqua Walls’ chemistry is fun to watch. Harlow plays Jeremy, a health nut who wants to start playing basketball again after the game caused him to tear both ACLs. He believes that, with enough money, he could pay for stem cell treatment to heal his injuries preventing him from playing the game at the top of his form.
Meanwhile, Kamal (Walls) was on the cusp of becoming a college basketball player until an altercation with a crowd member verbally insulting him at his high school caused him to get arrested. He now has to take care of his wife, Imani (Teyana Taylor), and father, Benji (Lance Reddick, in one of his final film roles), with the latter suffering from multiple sclerosis. Benji hid his illness from Kamal as he practiced, and the two aren’t necessarily on speaking terms because of this.
However, Kamal finds an opportunity to make considerable money with Jeremy, which could save them from significant trouble. The movie does take a while to get going, introducing audiences to each detail of the character’s journey before they actively team up to play basketball. However, once it starts to ramp itself up, it only falters near the end. Harlow’s film debut isn’t necessarily memorable on its own, but he shares fun chemistry with Walls, and Laura Harrier, who plays his girlfriend, Tatiana. Harrier and Taylor are underused as the respective partners of Harlow and Walls, but they make up most of their screen time nonetheless.
The late Reddick also feels underused as Benji’s father. And as great of a performance he gives in this movie, I couldn’t help but feel massive amounts of emotional manipulation through his father’s illness and how the film uses it as a driving point for the climactic basketball game. Without spoiling anything, the emotional balance between a high-spirited game and Benji’s health did not work. It felt so egregious that you could almost see the director coming out of the TV and telling you to cry. It’s a shame because this film will be known as containing one of Reddick’s final performances before his death in March 20203, and it feels especially more shameful in that regard.
Still, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a good time watching this. It’s far from being perfect, but the natural chemistry Harlow has with Walls is definitely helpful when they have to act in a scene that requires tension between the two. The basketball scenes are well shot and paced, and the overall feeling of joy and exuberance you get from watching them dunking it out is unparalleled and should’ve warranted a theatrical release. If you’re a fan of the original, you may needlessly compare the new one to the classic, but it’s a vastly different movie. Jack Harlow is no Woody Harrelson (it’s his first film role, after all), and Sinqua Walls is no Wesley Snipes. But it doesn’t matter, because everyone knows that. Calmatic creates a fun movie that celebrates the original’s spirit while making the remake his own. What more could you ask for?
White Men Can’t Jump is now available on Hulu in the United States and on Disney+ internationally.
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