White Men Can’t Jump Review – An Air-Ball Of A Reboot

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1992’s White Men Can’t Jump is a modest cult-classic, fondly remembered for its outstanding cast, its handling of sensitive topics and its blending of a sports-comedy structure with dramatic elements. Filmmaker Calmatic — whom also brought us the House Party remake earlier this year — does his best to bring the story to a modern audience; unfortunately, the majority of the shots he takes, miss the backboard completely.

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The Plot

Jeremy (Jack Harlow) loves Basketball, but due to injuries to his ACL, his aspirations of going pro never stood a chance. Now, he makes his money training young athletes and conning local players who underestimate his skills. When he meets Kamal (Sinqua Walls), another talented athlete who missed his shot at at the NBA, the two develop an unlikely friendship that blossoms into a partnership of mutual respect.

Josh Harlow (left) and Sinqua Walls (right) in ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ (2023)

The Critique

The very best thing that the original film had going for it was its cast. Woody Harrelson carries a sort of every man charm that is difficult to come by. He’s perfected his natural “aw-shucks” delivery and his charisma is so inviting, that it’s nearly impossible to dislike him on-screen, even when the character he portrays is objectively obnoxious. Wesley Snipes embodies the cool and cocky persona necessary to counter Harrelson’s simple demeanor.  And then, of course, there’s Rosie Perez, whose energy is unmatched.

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Unfortunately, the White Men Can’t Jump reboot — coming to Hulu May 19th — consists of a cast that is unable to elevate or support the simple premise of the story. Nearly each of the performances lack the necessary charm and chemistry to carry the film. The majority of this disconnect seems to stem from the poor dialogue and weak deliveries.  And while all of the performances are flawed, it’s rapper-turned-actor Jack Harlow who stands out as the worst of the bunch.

When looking back on the ’92 White Men Can’t Jump it’s impossible to ignore the pure 90’s of it all. From the distinct color pallet and style of clothing to the cultural importance of street-level basketball, the film is like a time-capsule of its era. It’s one of its defining characteristics, and by bringing the film to 2023, that crucial element is lost. That’s not to say that the story is untouchable, but in order to modernize the plot you have to successfully adapt these characters and their motivations for a modern world. And that simply does not happen.

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Like the original, White Men Can’t Jump’s climactic finale centers on a basketball tournament; one with a winning prize of half-a-million dollars. I’ve never entered a basketball tournament, and I have nothing to base this off, but that seems like a ridiculously large prize for this sort of thing. Jeremy needs the money for… stem-cells. So, that he can heal his two injured ACL’s and still have a shot at going pro. As ridiculous as that sounds, it gets worse.

Josh Harlow as Jeremy in ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ (2023)

This plan for using stem-cells doesn’t come from a doctor or other medical professional. There is no procedure scheduled and in place waiting on the payment. This whole idea stems from one of his buddies making a remark that stem-cells are great at healing injuries, but they’re expensive. That’s it. Nothing more. It’s one the weakest plot devices I’ve seen a film and it does nothing to make Harlow’s character any more likable.

In Conclusion

This is a movie that tries its best to be cool, clever and comedic but fails to achieve any of the three. Jeremy’s head-games and trash-talk fall flat. It does adapt to explore race relations and generalized stereotypes in a new generation; however, it doesn’t do this any better than the original. Calmatic’s White Men Can’t Jump is a shoot and a miss. A rehash of a story we’ve already seen, but told in a subpar manner. This one should be benched, I’ll stick with the ’92 version.

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White Men Can’t Jump releases on Hulu May 19th.

3/10

 

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  • adapts to change its perception of race and generalized stereotypes.
  • Lessons are learned way too easily and characters are redeemed way to quickly
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Written by Joshua Ryan

Articles Published: 243

Joshua Ryan is the Creative Coordinator and Head Film & TV Critic for FandomWire. He's a member of the Critics Choice Association and spokesperson for the Critics Association of Central Florida. Joshua is also one of the hosts of the podcast, The Movie Divide.