Director: calming | Script: Kenya Harris, Doug Hall, Ron Shelton| Cast: Sinqua Walls (Kamal), Jack Harlow (Jeremy), Teyana Taylor (Imani), Laura Harrier (Tatiana), ea | Time to play: 101 minutes | Year: 2023
In 1992, we saw Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes in the basketball movie. The white man can’t jump, a sports comedy that took a closer look at street basketball and racial tensions. The original managed to use comedy to address sensitive issues, but the remake starring Jack Harlow and Sinqua Walls is too guarded for this. Whereas the 1992 film was full of quackery and seamstress, the remake tackles the subject with velvet gloves.
That’s not to say there isn’t any social commentary in the film. It’s a story about two men who seem to come from different worlds, but actually have more in common than they think. They eventually realize that they are not that different and that they are better off as friends. It’s not in-depth material, but the tone of the film isn’t like that either.
White men can’t jump (2023) relies heavily on the backstories of the main characters: the black Kamal was a celebrated high school basketball player, and the white Jeremy is a working-class player beset by old injuries. Throughout the film, we are constantly reminded of who the young basketball friends were and what they went through to get to where they are. Flashbacks show Kamal’s father putting too much pressure on him, resulting in an almost silly confrontation that cost him his career as a professional basketball player. However, Jeremy has to make do with some close-ups of his surgery scars.
The film’s feel-good atmosphere deprives the characters of a certain insecurity, or at least the drama of every basketball game, because they don’t really lose. Burdening the characters with backstories fraught with resentment, tragedy, and unfulfilled but underdeveloped dreams creates a catharsis at the end of the film that’s unsupported by the previous hundred minutes of aimless three-pointers.
The discussion of whether remakes are desirable is, of course, irrelevant. The film was made whether we like it or not, but in the case of White men can’t jump It begs the question: why now? We live in a time when racial tensions are high in the United States. A good reason to revive a cult classic that turns this topic into a light-hearted discussion, but if you then let this story boil down to an uninspiring redemption tale, it’s not clear why we should watch this movie over the original.
White men can’t jump can be seen in Disney+.