Slam dunks and technical fowls collide in this reboot.
The 1992 “White Men Can’t Jump” is one of the most stylish and smartest basketball comedies with Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes as two players and hustlers, who both know how to play the game and banter nonstop.
The 2023 “White Men Can’t Jump” was directed by Calmatic, whose last entry was the “House Party” remake from January. It says it wants to move on by saying “White Men Can Jump,” with the Can replacing the Can’t,” but this reboot can’t really jump. I mean it has a few tickles and some truthful aspects, but it doesn’t really distinguish itself from the hit movie. It’s not a bad movie; it’s just not really necessary.
Kamal Allen (Sinqua Walls from “Nanny” and NBC’s “Friday Night Lights”) is a washed-out celebrity player who makes ends meet as a delivery man. Although he can get himself in trouble for refusing to take selfies, especially when he breaks a fan’s phone and responds by telling him to get a cover. He often returns to the gym to get himself back in the game. All he wants to do is support his girlfriend (Teyana Taylor) and son, and make his MS-stricken father (the late Lance Reddick) proud.
Jeremy (rapper Jack Harlow) is an ACL stricken player who wants to be given a medical treatment-the kind to improve on his stem cells-to get himself back on the courts. In the meantime, he runs a detox program with others players, and thinks he can still play without hurting himself. That’s how optimistic he is, even though his girlfriend Tatiana (Laura Harrier) doesn’t want him destroying himself again.
Then when word about a big tournament, Kamal enlists Jeremy to hustle a few games to get the money for the entry fee.
It has to be conceivable that the racial humor is Jeremy preferring P.T. Anderson, while Kamal has no idea who he is, and prefers Spike Lee. A white player liking a white filmmaker, and a black man liking a black filmmaker. I remember going to a conversation where I wanted to meet James Spader, while a black man wanted to meet Whoopi Goldberg. This wouldn’t look very good out of context. And to clarify, I met Whoopi before that event, but I’ve never met Spader until then.
Both versions are streaming on Hulu. It’s clear that the new generation of movie-goers should watch the 1992 classic first, so they know what they’re getting into before they see this one. Walls and Harlow both have chemistry and wish to live up to Snipes and Harrelson’s expectations without trying so hard. But they don’t really have the kind of humor to really get us going.
There were times when I felt bad for the main characters given their own dramas, and times when I admired the stylish look of the film as a transition from the ’90s to the 2020s, but they’re weren’t enough to for this reboot to make the kind of slam dunk that Ron Shelton wrote and directed. And interestingly enough, he co-wrote the new script with Kenya Barris and Doug Hall.
This “White Men Can’t Jump” has its intentions, themes, and leads we hope to see again, making it serviceable entertainment, but it needs more practice for the big games. Less technical fowls, more dunks.
Streaming on Hulu Tomorrow