Sunday, July 03, 2011

"Just Wright" starring Queen Latifah, Common

My reasoning for picking "Just Wright" as the movie to start this blog wasn't particularly complex: it was simply the most recent major basketball movie to come out. When I announced on my Twitter feed that it had arrived from Netflix, the responses all warned me that this was a horrible movie, bordering on painful to watch. But I figured it still couldn't be worse than an NBA lockout, which is the point of this project.

I was wrong.

"Just Wright" isn't just a bad basketball movie, it's a bad everything movie, and actually had me literally yelling at the screen it was so bad. And when I say bad, it's not the "so bad it's good" kind of bad. It's the "oh my God, how did this thing get made" kind of bad.

THE MOVIE



Score: 0.5 out of 5

Real NBA teams: Yes

Fictional NBA teams: No

Notable NBA players involved: Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Dwyane Wade

Best basketball moment: Wade's dunks in Game 7 of the ECF

Worst basketball moment: The cliched "Rucker Park" scene, which sullies the name of that hallowed venue. Also, any time Common "dunks".
Leslie Wright (Queen Latifah), a physical trainer and Nets fan, is the kind of woman every guy wants as his best friend, but she's looking for love, with no luck. Her golddigger god-sister Morgan (Paula Patton), has also been unlucky for love, mostly because she's a ballplayer chaser. After the Nets season opener, Wright happens to run into star player Scott McKnight (Common) at a gas station, and gets invited to his birthday party, where Scott meets Morgan, and ends up falling in love with her (though not the "real" her, since she's being deceitful). They get engaged, much to the dismay of Leslie, but things fall apart when Scott suffers a potential career ending injury at the All-Star Game. Morgan convinces Leslie to come on as Scott's physical therapist, because the woman the Nets first brought in was a hottie, and she felt threatened. However, things don't go well at first with his rehab, and Morgan leaves him. Scott's he's ready to give up on everything, but Leslie motivates him, and in the process, they fall for each other. Scott returns in time for Game 7 of the conference finals, and hits the game-winning shot, turning things back around for him. Not surprisingly, Morgan comes back, which breaks Leslie's heart. While Scott resumes his relationship with Morgan (who quickly wants to move to marriage), Leslie is courted by multiple NBA teams to join their training staff. She turns down the Nets and goes to Philadelphia to meet with the 76ers, which is when Scott realizes that he really loves her, not just as a friend, and he gets her to come back to New Jersey, marry him and join the Nets training staff. And everyone lived happily ever after, except Lawrence Frank (we'll get to that).

THE REVIEW

There's just so much wrong with "Just Wright" that I don't know where to start. The story of the movie is beyond implausible, the pacing is horrible, the acting is mostly wooden and there's considerable overuse of montages, even for a sports movie.

The movie, up until the point of Scott's comeback, plays out very typically, even coming to a natural climax when Scott hits the game-winning shot and then (some unknown amount of time later, though probably after the Finals) takes Leslie out on a date. It's a natural conclusion to the movie, but the weird thing is, it comes with 40 minutes left. So what ends up happening is a natural 3-act movie gets an awkward 4th act tacked on. Morgan, who was such a huge part of the first 30 minutes or so disappears for a very long stretch of the movie, which makes her reappearance all the more awkward. And it's all an anti-climax anyway, since you know there's no way that Scott isn't ending up with Leslie. The added twist of Morgan coming back is just an unnecessary obstacle, one that was really already beaten in the second act anyway (when Morgan dumped Scott, revealing her to be the golddigger that she truly was).

THE BASKETBALL

According to multiple web sites, Common is six feet tall, but I'm guessing that he's 6-0 in the same way that Allen Iverson is 6-0 (that is, "not at all"). During the key game in the movie, Common's McKnight -- again, listed at 6-0 and coming off a serious knee injury -- finds himself repeatedly matched up against Dwyane Wade. That goes about as well as you'd expect it to.

I think the biggest problem with the basketball is that Common, a regular in celebrity hoops games, is just good enough at basketball that it ends up being terrible. See, if he were worse, the filmmakers would use a lot more "movie magic" to mask his lack of ability, but instead the let him do things like bring the ball up and execute offensive moves himself, and while it doesn't look terrible (aside from the embarrassing edits when they try to make it look like Common can dunk), at no point do you see Common and think "yeah, Scott McKnight is definitely a two-time MVP and one of the best players ever."

In addition, there's some serious plot-hole madness going on with McKnight's knee injury. He suffers it at the All-Star Game -- inexplicably held in New Jersey, but we'll ignore that bit of Hollywood insanity -- which is in February. In the hospital scene after that, they talk about the injury (a PCL tear) as potentially career-ending, which would indicate that it's a Grade 3 PCL tear. However, a Grade 3 tear results in a 6-12 month rehab period. McKnight makes it back for Game 7 of the conference finals, putting his rehab at 3 1/2 months, which makes sense for a Grade 2 PCL tear. But if it was a Grade 2 tear, then "career-ender" never would have come into the equation. And unless Leslie is pumping that knee full of horse steroids, it's not recovering from a Grade 3 tear in three months.

One last point on the basketball in this movie (and Wade, Dwight Howard and other NBA players who appeared should really be embarrassed they signed off on this): as mentioned above, McKnight's triumphant return comes in Game 7 of the Conference Finals. There's a scene before the game where he's struggling through practice, but Rod Thorn (playing himself), says they can't win without him. WHAT? They're already in the CONFERENCE FREAKIN' FINALS! IN GAME 7! AT HOME! They've done PLENTY of winning without him. Fortunately, the Nets do win, despite the aforementioned destruction by Wade early in that game, and they go on to... I have no idea. Despite the conference finals scene taking place with 40 minutes left in the movie, the outcome of that season is never mentioned again. They never even say who the Nets might have played in the fictional Finals, much less whether they won or lost. I say they got swept by the Lakers, with Kobe Bryant averaging 82.3 PPG while being defended by McKnight.

NBA EQUIVALENT

Fun bit of trivia about "Just Wright" (well, fun, in comparison to the rest of the movie): originally Lawrence Frank played himself as the Nets coach, and can still be seen in some scenes. However, after the Nets opened the 2009-10 season 0-16 and Frank was fired, he was cut out of the movie. It's really perfect synergy, since "Just Wright" is the movie equivalent of the 2009-10 Nets: almost historically bad, despite the presence of a couple people who seem to be real NBA players, and you wish you hadn't seen either.

BETTER OR WORSE THAN A LOCKOUT?

Worse. Way worse. In fact, I'd willingly sacrifice AT LEAST 32 games from the 2011-12 regular season if it meant this movie could be erased from my brain.

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