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Review: White Men Can’t Jump (2023)

White Men Can’t Jump (2023)

Directed by: Calmatic

Premise: A remake of the 1992 film. A white basketball player with a knee injury (Jack Harlow) teams with a once promising basketball star (Sinqua Walls) to hustle the community basketball courts around Los Angeles.

What Works: 2023’s White Men Can’t Jump is a remake but it is not a carbon copy of the 1992 film. The new version retains the basic premise and overall plot of its predecessor while adding new material. In particular, the 2023 film fleshes out the backstory of the two lead characters. Jeremy is a white basketball player who has a passion for the game but knee surgery has impaired his ability to play. He lurks around public basketball courts in Black neighborhoods presenting himself as a stereotypical white man as a way of hustling marks into free throw contests he can easily win. Jeremy connects with Kamal, a Black basketball player who was on track for stardom before a violent incident derailed his assent. The backstories give the characters some depth and contribute meaning and stakes to the basketball games.

What Doesn’t: Actors Jack Harlow and Sinqua Walls are decent actors individually but they don’t have a comic rapport, certainly not in the way Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson did in the 1992 film. In both versions of White Men Can’t Jump these guys go into business together out of necessity and gradually become friends. The friendship is what’s missing here. This is a buddy movie but Harlow and Walls’ characters don’t seem like they would hang out. The 1992 film was not a deep story but it paired its interracial protagonists together with a mostly understated regard for race; these issues were there but not overtly spelled out. The racial content of the remake is obvious and dumb. The racial jokes mostly consist of the characters riffing on racial stereotypes but not saying anything that is either truthful or subversive or even funny. The whole film suffers from a lack of edge or grit. That’s certainly true of the racial content but it’s equally true of the world these characters occupy and the basketball action. This is a story about street hustlers but the film is too polished in its look and design. Everything about 2023’s White Men Can’t Jump is glossy and lacks credibility. The basketball scenes aren’t well staged either. The set pieces don’t have a quality of physicality or violence. It all feels too much like a Nike ad. White Men Can’t Jump also suffers from some strange musical choices. The film includes non-sequitur needle drops that come across random and out of place.

Disc extras: Available on Hulu.

Bottom Line: 2023’s White Men Can’t Jump makes some noble efforts to differentiate itself but the movie fails at the most basic elements of a buddy movie and a sports film. The friendship between these men is not interesting or convincing and a lot of the humor is lame.  

Episode: #950 (May 28, 2023)