White Men Can’t Jump receives a modern-day remake that fails to capture the essence of the original film and the vibrant world of street-based basketball. While the 1992 classic, directed by Ron Shelton, showcased the personalities and relationships of pick-up basketball players, the 2023 remake by Calmatic lacks the same energy and understanding of the cinematic language of streetball. Despite featuring talented actors Sinqua Walls and Jack Harlow, their characters are underutilized, serving mainly as exposition vessels.
The film follows Kamal Allen (played by Walls), a former basketball hopeful turned parcel deliveryman, who joins forces with Jeremy (Harlow), a fellow ex-athlete, to compete in a tournament with a $25,000 prize. Kamal reluctantly agrees to help his wife Imani (Teyana Taylor) pursue her dreams, while Jeremy aims to fund knee surgery and revive his own basketball aspirations. Their journey becomes the main focus as they face financial challenges and each explores their own history.
In comparison to the original, the remake lacks the thrill and excitement of the game of basketball. The logistics of the game are inconsistent throughout the film, and the playing itself lacks documentation, making it difficult to appreciate each character’s skill level or feel engaged. The absence of hustling, a prominent aspect of the original, further diminishes the excitement and suspense.
The film tries to compensate for its shortcomings by burdening the characters with heavy origin stories filled with resentment, tragedy, and unfulfilled dreams. While Sinqua Walls delivers a convincing performance as Kamal, the weight of his past failures and a secondary plot involving his father (played by the late Lance Reddick) detract from the main narrative. Jack Harlow, on the other hand, falls short in his portrayal of Jeremy, struggling to update racial dynamics while attempting to balance outdated comedic elements.
Teyana Taylor brings a no-nonsense appeal to her role as Imani, providing steady support to Kamal, while Laura Harrier’s character, Tatiana, is unfortunately left with limited significance to Jeremy’s story.
Director Calmatic, known for the remake of “House Party,” once again fails to capture the essence of the original film. Superficial references to the original’s eccentric opponents and familiar scenes do not justify giving the films the same title, as the similarities are shallow and lack depth.
In an era where basketball and hustling continue to thrive, “White Men Can’t Jump” had the potential to tell a compelling story. However, this remake falls short of capturing the spirit of the game and shies away from exploring the complexities of racial dynamics. While the performances and technical aspects of the film show promise, they cannot save the movie.
Overall, “White Men Can’t Jump” (2023) stands in the shadow of greatness but falls short in the areas that truly matter. It remains a missed opportunity to deliver a worthy remake of a generational touchstone.
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