Review by Jack Foley
QUEEN Latifah and Common may seem like an unlikely romantic couple in Just Wright, a Cinderella story set against the backdrop of the NBA, but they are actually two of the best things about the movie.
Rather, Sanaa Hamri’s sports drama cum rom-com is a tame and hopelessly formulaic affair that brings nothing new to the genre, making it difficult to care too much for any of the characters in spite of the good work of the leads.
Latifah plays unlucky in love physical therapist Leslie Wright, who finds herself falling for Common’s NBA All Star Scott McKnight after he suffers a career threatening injury. Scott, though, takes an eternity to realise that Leslie is just right for him, having already been seduced by her beautiful but shallow childhood friend, Morgan (Paula Patton), a woman with her heart set on leading a celebrity lifestyle.
Ironically, many of the problems with Hamri’s movie stem from the depiction of the gold-digging Morgan… a character so transparent that her fall from grace seems obvious from the outset.
There are, quite simply, no shades of grey in the screenplay, which follows a lazy and predictable path to its fairytale ending, while bringing in characters along the way that are all too easily signposted as good, bad, story progressing or window dressing.
Michael Elliott’s screenplay also fails to convince that Common’s supposedly sensitive basketball player could ever fall for Patton’s artificial beauty, while consistently failing to see what’s right in front of him, while supposedly humorous asides involving Latifah’s DIY dad (Grey’s Anatomy’s James Pickens Jr) simply feel like desperate attempts to up the comedy.
That said, Latifah is good value as the straight shooting Leslie, managing to combine humility with frustration to suitably convincing effect, while Common convinces as a top athlete and displays a hitherto untapped sensitivity.
But Patton, who did so much good work in this year’s Precious, is hideously short-changed, while the likes of Pickens Jr and Pam Grier are under-used as parents watching from the sidelines.
Pot-shots at celebrity culture and consumerism also fail to ring true given that the movie also serves as an overlong advert for the NBA, complete with numerous cameos from some of the sport’s top players (Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, etc).
Hence, as noble and sweet as the intentions behind the triumph against the odds elements of the story are, Just Wright ultimately fails to inspire anything other than indifference.
Running time: 101mins
UK DVD Release: February 7, 2011