Film Review: White Men Can’t Jump (dir by Calmatic)

Hulu’s White Men Can’t Jump is the story of two aging basketball players who have never lived up to their potential but who have yet to totally give up on their dreams.

Even when he was in high school, Kamal Allen (Sinqua Walls) was considered to be one of the best basketball players in the country.  A lot of that was due to how he was raised by his father, Benji (Lance Reddick, giving a strong performance in one of his final roles).  Benji was a basketball star himself and, as we see in several flashbacks, he trained Kamal to be the best.  Benji was so obsessed with turning Kamal into a great player that he even drove away Kamal’s mother.  Benji taught Kamal all that he needed to know about playing basketball but not enough about how to survive once his playing days were over.  Unfortunately, after Benji was diagnosed with MS, Kamal lost his concentration.  When he responded to being taunted during a game by going into the stands and punching a guy out, Kamal ended up getting arrested and he also ended up losing his chance of entering the NBA.

Jeremy (Jack Harlow) was a college basketball star who blew out his knee and lost his chance to go pro.  He makes his living hustling other basketball players, knowing that they’ll assume that he can’t shoot because he’s white.  He also sells highly suspicious health tonics and he spends a lot of time meditating.  Though he can barely walk without taking his pain pills first, Jeremy still wants to make the NBA.  When he hears that stem cell treatment might help his knee, Jeremy starts to scheme to win the money to cover the cost.

Together, Jeremy and Kamal hustle other players, make some money, and become unlikely friends.

It took me three days to get through White Men Can’t Jump, largely because the film itself was so boring that I struggled to actually pay attention to it for more than a few minutes at a time.  This film is a remake of a 1992 film that starred Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson.  I have not seen the original White Men Can’t Jump but I have seen enough films featuring both Snipes and Harrelson to know that they are both talented and charismatic actors who both have strong comedic timing.  In short, they don’t have much in common with the two leads of the new version of White Men Can’t Jump.  In the role of Kamal, Sinqua Walls is solid but dull.  Walls is convincing but he’s never particularly interesting.  Making his film debut in the role of Jeremy, rapper Jack Harlow is so incredibly obnoxious that I found myself wanting to throw something at the screen whenever he popped up.  The film repeatedly emphasizes that no one wants to play with Jeremy because he’s white but I think it’s equally probable that they’re just reacting to the fact that he is an incredibly annoying human being.  Director Calmatic does all the usual choppy editing and slow-motion dunking that most viewers have come to expect from movies about basketball but with little chemistry between the leads and a script that tends to repeat the same jokes over and over again, this film never takes flight.

Riders of the West (1942, directed by Howard Bretherton)

In a frontier town, a gang of rustlers are stealing cattle as a part of a plot to force cash-strapped ranchers to take out exorbitant mortgages on their ranches.  Ma Turner (Sarah Padden) summons her old friend, Marshal Buck Roberts (Buck Jones), to come to town and take on the rustlers.  When the town’s corrupt banker is murdered and Ma Turner’s son, Steve (Dennis Moore), is framed for the crime, Roberts calls in his fellow Rough Riders, Tim McCall (Tim McCoy) and Sandy Hopkins (Raymond Hatton), to help him take down the gang.

In many ways, this is a familiar Rough Riders film, right down to the main bad guy being the owner of the town’s saloon and Charles King showing up as a member of the gang.  What sets it apart from the film that came before it is that, this time, Tim pretends to be an outlaw while Buck sets himself up as the new law in town.  Tim takes on the identity of Tim Steele, a sarsaparilla-drinking ne’er do well who has just gotten out of prison.  Jones and McCoy both seem to enjoy getting to switch their typical roles.  As for Sandy Hopkins, he goes undercover as a peddler of snake oil and provides the comic relief.  Riders of the West is a typical B-western but the chemistry between the three leads continues to shine through.

Previous Rough Rider Reviews:

  1. Arizona Bound
  2. The Gunman From Bodie
  3. Forbidden Trails
  4. Below the Border
  5. Ghost Town
  6. Down Texas Way

Retro Television Reviews: City Guys 4.26 “Blast From The Past”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Thursdays, I will be reviewing City Guys, which ran on NBC from 1997 to 2001.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

Today, we say goodbye to season 4!

Episode 4.26 “Blast From The Past”

(Dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on February 24th, 2001)

The final episode of season 4 opens with the City Guys still at the Hamptons.  (Wow, I guess this must be a really long weekend or something.)  Chris is trying to plan “this one month anniversary surprise for Cassidy” and, for some reason, he thinks that it’s a good idea to ask Jamal and L-Train for advice.  “Come on, dawg,” the very white Chris says, “a brother needs some advice here.”

“First piece of advice,” Jamal says, “don’t talk like that.”

Jamal tries to argue that anniversaries aren’t a big deal.  Cassidy then enters the living room and announces that today is the 17-day anniversary of the first time that she and Chris said the same word at the same time and jinxed each other.  She got Chris a card and everything.  Anniversaries are very important and not just on this show.  I have an entire calendar full of anniversaries and if you want to be a part of my life, you better be prepared to memorize it.

Meanwhile, on the beach, Al and Dawn are hanging out with Ms. Noble and Billy, which makes absolutely no sense.  Al and Dawn make fun of Ms. Noble and Billy for being old.  “Anything you and Dawn can do, Billy and I can do better!” Ms. Noble indignantly declares.

“Is that a challenge?” Dawn asks.

“Oh, it is on!” Ms. Noble replies.

Uhmm….I’ve said this before but MS. NOBLE IS THE PRINCIPAL!  She shouldn’t even be hanging out with her students on the weekend, let alone challenging them on the beach!

Meanwhile, back at the vacation home, Chris has finally decided that he and Dawn will have a romantic dinner on the beach for their anniversary.  (There’s nothing more romantic than sand and sea crabs!)  The doorbell rings and, when Chris answer it, he’s surprised to see a girl named Nicole.  They hug and Nicole announces, “When I heard you were in town, I had to come see you and say hi!”

“When you’re done saying hi,” Jamal announces, “Maybe you can introduce a brother.”

Chris explains that Nicole is his ex-girlfriend.  Cassidy then enters the room and is a little less than happy to discover that Nicole is Chris’s ex-girlfriend and that Nicole lives in the Hamptons.  Cassidy says she’s from the city.  “I always wondered what it’s like to live in the city,” Nicole says, as if this episode is taken place in Appalachia as opposed to the Hamptons.

Somehow, Jamal and L-Train get roped into judging a dumb competition to determine whether Ms. Noble and Billy are a better couple than Dawn and Al.  Let’s just ignore the whole principal thing.  Billy and Ms. Noble are in their late 40s.  They are challenging two seventeen year-olds.

Back at the vacation home, Nicole and Cassidy return from shopping.  They’re getting along great until Cassidy asks why Nicole and Chris broke up.  “Chris was a cheater,” Nicole says.  Cassidy thinks that Nicole is referring to cheating at school.  Nicole explains that Chris also cheats on his girlfriends.  He’s a double cheater!

(But if Chris was such a cheater, why was Nicole so happy to hear that he was back in the Hamptons?)

Nicole reveals that when she confronted about Chris about being a cheater, Chris called her “the c-word.”

Cassidy gasps and I’ll admit that I gasped a little too.

“Yes,” Nicole says, “Clingy.”

(Interestingly, there’s no laughter or anything of that sort when Nicole says “clingy” so who knows?  Maybe that’s what the C-word referred to back in 2000.)

You can probably guess what happens next.  Chris is trying to set up the dinner without Cassidy finding out and Cassidy is convinced that Chris is cheating.  Jamal and L-Train attempt to help Chris out by announcing that the three of them just want to hang out as guys but, when Cassidy doesn’t get the message, Chris tells her, “This week will go a lot better if you try not to be so …. so …. so …. CLINGY!”


While Cassidy worries about whether or not Chris is cheating on her, the dumbass Best Couple Competition continues.  Ms. Noble and Billy come over to Chris’s vacation home and they play a game where they try to guess what movie their partner is referring to.  Ms. Noble and Billy easily win so I guess it’s time for Al to transfer to another school.

Later, Cassidy tells Dawn that Chris used “the c-word.”

“Oh my God,” Dawn replies, “Clingy!?”

And again, there’s no laughter.  Either the joke went over the heads of the studio audience or it wasn’t a joke to begin with.

A deliveryman stops by and drops off some flowers.  He explains that Chris paid him money to deliver flowers for “a secret rendezvous on the beach.”  Cassidy, who is anniversary-obsessed, does not link this to their upcoming anniversary.  Jamal, however, tells Dawn (but for some reason, not Cassidy) that Chris is planning on a diner for Cassidy.

Cassidy confronts Chris about the flowers and breaks up with hi,.  Knowing that their friend is in pain, Jamal and L-Train promptly leave so that they can judge a tug-of-war competition between Ms. Noble and Billy and Dawn and Al.  Fortunately, Dawn takes a break from pulling on the rope to let Cassidy know about the surprise dinner.

(For the record, Billy and Ms. Noble win the tug-of-war and the title of best couple.  I’m not sure what pulling on a rope has to do with being the best couple but whatever.  It’s a dumb plot anyway.)

Cassidy meets Chris on the beach and they forgive each other.  And season 4 ends.  Yay!

The first half of season 4 was fairly weak but the show kind of improved once Chris got his hair cut.  Certainly, City Guys was not the best of Peter Engel-produced NBC shows but it wasn’t One World either.  The biggest flaws remains the unrealistic depiction of Ms. Noble.  The show’s biggest strength, at the end of season 4, is that the actors have finally stopped looking straight at the camera while delivering their lines.

Next week, we begin the final season of City Guys.