Drivel but decent. Who out there wants to be Queen Latifah’s friend? Queen is so vivacious, and upbeat, with her eyes always popping up like a toaster machine. But Paula Patton is the girl that guys everywhere want to date because she’s cotton candy from head to toe. Common, the rapper turned actor, has to choose between the two. He then has to gingerly drive his charisma through the film Just Wright in a way that doesn’t make himself look like he’s trapped in a formula romantic comedy that he’s actually in. Common plays Scott McKnight, a fictional NBA star who falls in love fast but whose inconvenient on-the-court injury threatens both his career and his love life.
In recent years, Queen Latifah has starred in “Chicago” and “Living Out Loud,” is typically chubby but bubbly, and generally has a great zest of life on screen. Patton is a hot, yummy gams sight for sore eyes who just happens to have acting chops as seen in “Precious.” Common was in “American Gangster” and “Terminator: Salvation” and yet I don’t remember seeing him in the latter. He also had a one-note hitman role in “Date Night” and now is here, and you know what? He’s as fine as brown sugar.
As a chick flick romantic comedy “Just Wright” can be easygoing, but the basketball stuff is subpar. Latifah is Leslie Wright, a physical therapist who goes from the standard medical building to the deluxe penthouse of Scott McKnight. Patton is, Morgan Alexander, the best friend who is beautiful but shallow like a Kardashian sister. McKnight dates Morgan for all the obvious good public image reasons, but after his injury, she steps out and Leslie Wright steps in. New chemistry is stirring but the movie forgets about half a dozen characters during this unlikely but engaging courtship. In the meantime, McKnight has only a few weeks of rehabilitation before the playoffs.
I cared about the people on the screen – does that mean I cared more about the actors or the characters they were playing? I am still trying to figure that one out. The movie is cheerfully acted and competently directed. But while the screenplay has a pro forma film school structure, the dialogue is nevertheless amateurish. Yet the actors go through as much tongue-zinging as possible to make the dialogue sound fresher than what it is.
The boys out there in the audience won’t like that the movie doesn’t teach you anything about behind the scenes basketball that we don’t already know. Scott McKnight is supposed to be a league superstar but in reality his moves on the court aren’t that good. He would get torched by Kobe Bryant or Chris Paul.
This is a fairly light and easy to watch movie. In a way it is more of a compliment than it sounds in relation to all the cruel and hostile garbage we’ve been getting in theaters the last couple of months. Nobody gets hideously hurt, and for the intended criteria the characters try to be kind and not vindictive on purpose. This is the kind of entertainment that is an antidote to nihilism. And Common’s final apology and plea for forgiveness is one of the best deliveries I’ve ever seen. He could teach classes on how to be a babe magnet.
101 Minutes. Rated PG.
ROMANTIC COMEDY / SPORTS FABLE / TEEN GIRLS AND OLDER COUPLES
Film Cousins: “White Men Can’t Jump” (1992); “The Great White Hype” (1996); “Eddie” (1996); “Juwanna Mann” (2002).