The stakes are high, funny, and damn entertaining under Ben Affleck’s direction.

Ben Affleck’s next directorial position “Air” is about the complications and gambling of the Nike company making a deal with Michael Jordan on a line of shoes, known to everyone as “Air Jordan.” Out of all the films he’s directed (“Gone Baby Gone,” “The Town,” “Argo,” and “Live By Night”), this might be his most wisecracking. It’s drama that knows when to be serious and when to be brutally and honestly funny. And he knows how to work with big names like himself, Matt Damon (his fellow collaborator), Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Tucker, Chris Messina, and Viola Davis. In fact, this is one of the year’s best films.

I don’t own a pair of Air Jordans, but I was able to see something entertaining in “Air.” It has a lead character based on a real character, who isn’t afraid to take risks and refuses to take “No” for an answer. And that character would be marketing his executive Sonny Vaccaro (Damon), who, despite him being out of shape, is fascinated in sports. He’s even willing to break the rules by traveling to North Carolina to speak with MJ’s folks. Davis plays the mom, Julius Tennon is the dad, and Damian Young plays the faceless MJ himself. The reason he’s faceless in this movie is because Affleck mentioned how the audience would know the young actor isn’t really Jordan himself, and the real deal was too old and probably too expensive to be cast here. These aren’t my words.

Here’s a quote from a Footwear News article to back me up.

“This is a movie about an icon, about somebody who is so meaningful that the minute I show you somebody and tell you, ‘Hey, that’s Michael Jordan,’ you’re just going to know it isn’t. I know what Michael Jordan is, I know what he is,” Affleck said. “And not only that, the only actor Michael Jordan was a little old to play this part, and we probably couldn’t afford him. But the idea was, if I show you…you know that’s not Michael Jordan. And now everything else is fake.”

By “brutally funny,” I mean the movie knows how to curse in honest ways. The kind like “Are you ****ing kidding me?,” not like “Are you ****ING kidding me?” in capital letters. Colossal difference in tone. One character, in particular, who swears harshly is sports agent David Falk (Messina), who becomes angry at Sonny’s risks.

And the humor just doesn’t have to be about cursing. By “wisecracking,” I mean we get a lot of wisecracks from another marketing exec named Rob Strasser (Bateman) and Nike co-founder Phil Knight (Affleck). Rob responds to Sonny’s idea “I do not love it,” while Affleck says: “maybe it’ll (Air Jordans) grow on me.” You also have Tucker not catering to the “Rush Hour” crowd by being his funny and flexible self with vulnerabilities as another exec named Howard White. And Wayans appears with timing as former basketball player George Raveling.

“Air” knows how to grab an audience-whether or not they’re into sports-and it refuses to condescend anyone. Affleck does impressive work in front of and behind the camera, and it’s impossible to criticize his chemistry with Damon. They know how to work together, and even if this film wasn’t directed by Affleck, Damon still meets well with age, especially the way he presents Sonny’s persistence and determination. These shoes sure do fit.

Rating: 4 out of 4.

Special 7PM Screenings Tomorrow Night

Opens Everywhere This Wednesday

Categories: Drama

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