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.