Writers Kenya Barris and Doug Hall did basically what the writers of Bel-Air did. They took a story we all know, modernized it to make it relatable, and let the cast do the rest.
It pays off because this movie is hands down the biggest surprise of 2023. I wasn’t expecting to be chanting from the rooftops for Jack Harlow, but here we are. He and Sinqua Walls are so good that I’d even watch a sequel.
Jeremy and Kamal get together to play in the 25k tournament. However, Kamal’s past gets in his way, and Jeremy struggles to handle it on the court, causing them to lose. Post-game, the two have a big fight leading to a massive falling out.
Why does Jeremy get thrown out of the game?
Earlier in the movie, Kamal got into a fight with a guy during one of the games in the streets. He was at the game, heckling him, saying he would beat him up. After Jeremy drives to the basket and makes a shot, he lands on his leg wrong, causing him to come out of the game. The heckler kept yapping his trap, and Kamal went to step in, but Jeremy knocked him out instead. Because of the punch, the ref threw out Jeremy but let the rest of the squad stay to finish the game.
The 2023 remake of White Men Can’t Jump, directed by Calmatic, is a much simpler comeback story. Kamal Allen (Sinqua Walls) was a former basketball prodigy whose college ball prospects were dashed when he got into a brawl and landed in jail. Ten years later, Kamal balances his time between his job as a delivery driver, his girlfriend Imani (Teyana Taylor) and their kid, and pick-up ball at his high school gym.
Jeremy loves basketball. He’s got an encyclopedic knowledge of the NBA and college ball, and in spite of surgeries to repair two torn ACLs that still cause him pain, he still believes there’s a future for him somewhere in the game. (Hence the juice cleanses.) Jeremy is also really damn annoying, and his inability to ever carry himself as a serious person, combined with his killer shot, makes him an unlikely ringer on the court. Before long, Kamal teams up with him to play pickup games for money.
Working from a script by Kenya Barris and Doug Hall, the 2023 White Men Can’t Jump is a remake in name only, a gut renovation where someone decided the “renovation” part wasn’t necessary. The result is a toothless film, a generic story where a would-be great derailed by rage learns something from his pain-in-the-ass white teammate, who reciprocates by learning to get serious about a thing or two in life.
Mistaking style for substance, the 2023 White Men Can’t Jump focuses squarely on basketball and lets its characters recede into near-nothingness. There is no hustle to its characters’ hustle: They simply place bets and play pickup against people they think they can beat. The risks that come with ripping people off — something the original film leveraged to give its story a sense of danger and stakes — are nonexistent in the new film.
The strangest decision in White Men Can’t Jump lies in Jeremy’s torn ACLs. It’s a character trait that mostly exists to make the film’s title literal: Jeremy, the eponymous white man, simply cannot jump. Except he can, when the movie calls for it. Like a lot of ideas the film’s script sets forth, the subsequent plot places little faith in it. Jokes about how it’s no longer remarkable that a white boy can ball are plentiful, as if that were the sole point of the original movie (which, by the way, premiered the year Larry Bird, already crowned as one of basketball’s greats, retired).
It’s nearly impossible to discern a sincere appreciation for the original White Men Can’t Jump in the new one. Scenes are reinterpreted and references are made, but the remake isn’t built to do what the original did — which is dig into one particular white man and his relationship with a very specific character from a different racial background. Every conversation from the original film is shot through with meaning: You can study them the way a good ball player studies an opponent’s game. The new film trades all that for Jack Harlow pathetically mumbling about how there are some jokes he can’t make because he’s a white guy, and expects the audience to laugh at this self-awareness as if they haven’t heard it before.
What ultimately made the original so indelible, apart from the brimming charisma of the star-studded cast, was its sharp critique of stereotypes: There’s, of course, the provocative title itself. The phrase “White Men Can’t Jump” is presented as a racial truism as common as the sky is blue, which feeds into the perception that white folks can’t play basketball either. It’s a reversal that initially pitches Black people as racially insensitive to whites. Shelton, however, ever-so-subtly spends the movie reconfiguring the phrase: Harrelson really can’t jump (though he could if he practiced), but his nascent leaping ability is a metaphor for his lack of drive. While he chides Snipes for showboating, hotdogging, and not playing fundamental basketball—a plethora of dog whistles neatly sewn into the perception of Black people as jobless thugs—it’s Snipes who is the loving father working several jobs to support his family while Harrelson gambles away his and Perez’s money.
There is some shallow attempt at navigating Black masculinity and the need for self-care in the face of Black vulnerability, as seen in Kamal’s relationship with his father and the anger issues that stem from his fear of disappointing him, and as represented in his loving relationship with his daughter and wife (an underused Teyana Taylor). But the film is too busy trying to be a drowsy comedy to pull off sturdy character-building.
It doesn’t help that Calmatic simply lacks the visual storytelling chops to do so too. While slick and aerodynamic, the basketball scenes and the camera swooping through the gameplay with precision don’t feed into the story. What are the mini-narratives in these pickup games? It’s a question left largely unanswered, causing these scrimmages to feel stale and without rhythm (the choppy editing doesn’t help either).
Speaking of balance, Snipes and Harrelson were a dynamic duo, with Snipes being the fiery, bombastic one and Harrelson the cool, smooth operator. Jeremy and Kamal are demonstrably less interesting. For one, Kamal is no Sidney, as Barris and Hall trade in Sidney’s bravado and comically over-the-top theatrics for a somber archetype of an emotionally repressed Black man. Jeremy is a lot like Billy but lacks the edge that Harrelson afforded him. However, due to the character’s nature and his eccentricity, Harlow is given more room to be entertaining. Walls is a great actor, but the material doesn’t allow him to be as memorable as his 1992 counterpart. It feels almost deliberate having Kamal be so subdued as it’s the only way to let Harlow’s Jeremy shine.
The changes to the characters continue, however, as Barris and Hall eradicate the Gloria role. Teyana Taylor’s Imani, for better or worse, is the modern version of Sidney’s wife, Rhonda. A voice of reason who acts as motivation for her husband. Harrier’s Tatiana is a drastically miscast, uninteresting, and deflated version of Gloria. In the 1992 film, Gloria (Rosie Perez) is a whole character with a perspective affected by Billy’s choices. Perez and Harrelson’s chemistry is explosive, and near-identical scenes recreated by Harrier and Harlow are almost laughable for how little chemistry the two have. Harrier has the further misfortune of playing a character that has no presence in the story. It is criminal for this screenplay to even entertain keeping the role of Tatiana since she is nothing more than a sounding board for Jeremy.
Technically speaking, White Men Can’t Jump is fine. There is nothing particularly extravagant with Calmatic’s directing. The transitions from one scene to another don’t flow as well as in the original film, but there are some decent camera movements. Both films use the Los Angeles backdrop wonderfully, as its vibrancy remains steadfast. The production design and costuming are joyous and effectively tie the past and present without losing sight of modern aesthetics and cultural preferences. However, Calmatic once again directed a remake that stuck to the basic outline of the original but failed to recapture the magic. The story is bloated and uneven. The drama feels undercooked, and the characters barely escape one-dimensionality. White Men Can’t Jump is ultimately failed by the inadequacies of its creative team, as it is neither funny enough to justify its existence nor poignant enough to warrant diminishing the Black lead.
OnMyWay Is The #1 Distracted Driving Mobile App In The Nation!
OnMyWay, based in Charleston, SC, The Only Mobile App That Pays its Users Not to Text and Drive.
The #1 cause of death among young adults ages 16-27 is Car Accidents, with the majority related to Distracted Driving.
OnMyWay’s mission is to reverse this epidemic through positive rewards. Users get paid for every mile they do not text and drive and can refer their friends to get compensated for them as well.
The money earned can then be used for Cash Cards, Gift Cards, Travel Deals and Much, Much More….
The company also makes it a point to let users know that OnMyWay does NOT sell users data and only tracks them for purposes of providing a better experience while using the app.
The OnMyWay app is free to download and is currently available on both the App Store for iPhones and Google Play for Android @ OnMyWay; Drive Safe, Get Paid.
Download App Now – https://r.onmyway.com
Sponsors and advertisers can contact the company directly through their website @ www.onmyway.com