2023. R. Directed by Calmatic
Remakes are a dime a dozen nowadays as we seem to be getting more and more each year. The best one can hope for with a remake is that the new version improves upon the things that didn't work in the original and isn't just a shot for shot retelling of the story. White Men Can't Jump is a movie most people probably didn't have on their bingo card as a remake we would be getting in 2023 but here we are. Not to mention recruiting a rapper with no acting experience doesn't bode well for your new version of a character played by the great woody Harrelson. With all that being said, this remake of the beloved 90's movie actually holds its own well enough to make it one of the better remakes to come out recently.
Sinqua Walls plays Kamal, a former NBA prospect whose career went south after getting arrested in high school. Now he's stuck playing pickup basketball games at his old gym. Enter in Jeremy, played by rapper Jack Harlow, a former Gonzaga stud who missed out on a shot at the pros after tearing both of his ACL's. At first the two don't get along but both are in need of money, so they team up to try and hustle local players out of their cash. This all leads to the two of them planning to team up in a basketball tournament for the chance to win some big money.
There is no doubt that the original White Men Can't Jump is a classic 90's movie and I would go as far to say one of the more underrated comedies from that decade. It certainly didn't need a remake and I doubt anybody was asking for one either. Despite that, I think this version works more than it doesn't and ends up being a rather enjoyable movie. Director Calmatic, who is mostly known for music videos, is able to get some good performances out of his leads and that is the biggest draw of the movie.
Jack Harlow is the biggest question mark here. Not counting his episode of Saturday Night Live where he had the opportunity to host, the guy has never acted in anything before. While he isn't going to win an award for acting any time soon he surprisingly does a decent job here. There are times when his performance does feel a bit awkward but his chemistry with Sinqua Walls works and they play well off one another. Sinqua Walls puts in a stellar performance that is probably too good for this movie. He brings a lot of weight to his character and really makes you feel for Kamal. Everyone else here does a fine job in their roles. Special mention to the late Lance Reddick who, while not in the movie for very long, gives another great performance in one of his final roles.
The comedy for the most part works throughout. There are some genuine laugh out loud moments but there are many times where the jokes get stale. One of the bigger problems with the movie is its mix of comedy and drama. While I do think both aspects work well enough the movie never really has that good of a balance between them. Some scenes get to an almost overly dramatic level that just doesn't work. It feels like the director is afraid to take any big risks as well. Everything is mostly played safe and there's nothing new being done either. By the end of the runtime it all just feels very been there done that, not because it's a remake just because we've seen this story play out way too many times before.
White Men Can't Jump (2023) is a fine remake of the original. While never reaching the heights of the original this one does enough to stand on its own and welcome a new generation of fans. It doesn't add anything new to the genre but the dynamic between Sinqua Walls and Jack Harlow works well enough to make it worth recommending.
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