Sunday, September 14, 2008

Movie Review:Longshots

The movie poster and trailers for The Longshots (2008) were nothing if not misleading. They portray happy, smiling people taking part in yet another "inspiring sports story of a misfit, fish out of water non-athlete who becomes a star. You expect a certain amount of sappiness, a whole lot of feel-good cheer, and just generally a feel-good story.

Instead, it starts out dreary and gets much, much worse before getting better...sort of.

Curtis Plummer (Ice Cube) is a guy who has pretty much lost everything. Once a star football player, he blew out his knee and got a job in a factory. When the factory closed, he basically gave up on life. He spends his time with homeless guys hanging around the local trashed out football field with other homeless guys. His daily routine includes taking money out of his "Get out of Minden" fund to buy another beer.

Meanwhile, his niece Jasmine Plummer (Keke Palmer) is a loner/loser who does little except pine for her father Roy (Malcolm Goodwin) who ran off several years prior. She is picked on by the other kids, loses herself in her books, and is basically crawling through life.

When Claire Plummer (Tasha Smith) has to take extra hours as a waitress to make ends meet, she turns to Curtis to watch Jasmine. Curtis is so far beyond being a decent guy that he holds out until Claire offers him 5 bucks an hour to watch his niece.

It does not go well as Jasmine and Curtis not only do not hit it off, he shows a mastery of the ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, sending her ever further into a dark spiral.

Finally he gives up on trying and takes her to the park. In one of those movie cliches, she picks up an errant football and proves to have a natural talent for throwing.
So Curtis starts teaching her how to quarterback. How to grip the ball. How to cock. How to throw. Naturally she is great.

After a brief time where the coach will not replace his inept quarterback, Jasmine gets her shot. The Minden Browns start winning.The spectator totals explode. Well, they at least go from a half dozen people to maybe 20....
As word spreads of Jasmine's exploits, the media starts paying attention. Using the idea the media needs to see more of Minden than run-down streets, Reverend Pratt (Garrett Morris) convinces people to get together and clean up the town.

As the Minden Browns make their improbable run to the Pop Warner Super Bowl, Roy makes an untimely reappearance, Curtis replaces the ill coach, and everyone has something to solve.

For Curtis, he needs to fulfill the statement he made to Jasmine: "When you find something you are good at, you have to pursue it and don't let nothing stop you."

Jasmine has to realize that Roy is worthless and she needs to move on with her life.

Minden needs to regain their town pride since the factory is not coming back.

Coach Fisher (Matt Craven) needs to let his son know that he is proud of him.

What, did that just seem thrown in? Well...lots of things were just "thrown in" in this movie. Like the iconic moment when the Browns are celebrating their unity and the camera holds on a black hand and a white hand clasped together in unity. Now, nothing wrong with that...except that theme was nowhere else in the movie and when you see it, there is no question a statement being made. Great statement...completely out of the blue and random. Jasmine's hand being there would have meant more. And easily recognizable via her Dad's watch which she never takes off.

Or the crowd assembling when the Browns return from the Super Bowl. Or out of nowhere Coach telling his boy how proud he is of him and how proud he is.

Ironically, Curtis is the only one who does not achieve his goal. He proves to be a GREAT coach. Yet when he is offered a presumably decent paying job in his dream town of Miami, he turns it down to return to Minden and no future. While his reasoning of being there for Jasmine is honorable, it is a contradiction of the movies themes of people needing to get to better places.

Ultimately, the outright misery and depression of the first hour and change of this movie is just too much to overcome and what could have been a nice, enjoyable niche film is just too dreary.

A lot of that needs to be laid at the feet of first-time director Fred Durst, better known as the lead singer for Limp Bizkit. The filming is inconsistent, at times having the clear, smooth feel of being shot on digital video and other times looking as if it were shot on extremely grainy film. Themes are introduced and then ignored. Resolutions occur to questions that aren't asked.

And the advertising was highly misleading.

This might be worth a Netflix, but there is no need to see this in the theatre.

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