PLOT: A physical therapist named Leslie (Latifah) just can't find the right man. When Leslie's god-sister's boyfriend (Common) gets injured, she tries to nurse him back onto the court and ends up falling for him.
WHO'S IT FOR? Women who have felt like they are on the sidelines while every other girl gets picked to dance. As for fans of Common's music, they might not want to see this side of him.
EXPECTATIONS: I love basketball, so while a Queen Latifah romance didn't get me excited, I was curious to see how they would portray an NBA superstar who gets injured and needs a comeback.
Queen Latifah as Leslie Wright: Leslie just can't find a man. She's looking, but every guy just wants to be her friend. We know this because the film states it about 35 times. What they never spell out is the reason why she can't find a man. Is everyone skirting around the fact that she's a little bigger than other girls? We only see her going after two men in the film, and they seem to be in fantastic shape. Yet we're supposed to feel sorry for Leslie and her dating woes. That's really all the drive we have to root for this character. Admittedly, she plays the perfect version of that prototypical girl buddy. This is shown through her trash talking at Nets games. She never really does try to be sexy. So it's a little odd, we're supposed to feel sorry for her even though she puts herself in situations with guys who clearly want to play the "game" of dating. Score: 4
Common as Scott McKnight: I don't expect NBA superstars to have tons of charisma. Common captures that here, with his biggest acting role to date. It's weird - he oozes "super-sweet." My hunch is, this is actually what Common acts like in real life. My reason for this hunch is that I haven't seen anything believable from him as an actor in any of his other roles, but this one works. What's unfortunate is that the script doesn't require much from this character. Be a good guy, listen to what women say, and smile. He's never really quite smooth, but again, that's a positive thing here. You always believe this is a good guy. We'll talk his specific basketball skills in "Sights." Score: 6
Paula Patton as Morgan: As Common's part time collaborator Kanye West would say, "She take my money, when I'm in need. Yeah, she's a triflin' friend indeed. Oh, she's a gold digger way over town, that digs on me." Yes, in fact, I am saying she's a gold digger. The fact that we're stuck spending time with Morgan for the first 45 minutes, and watching her sink her claws into him, is the main reason this film doesn't work. Leslie's god sister isn't evil. She's just a whore who wants to get her clutches on a rich NBA player. Any attempt to show her as anything else simply doesn't work. Since Leslie and Scott are such nice people, no one ever tells Morgan off. It's painful, time consuming, and annoying. Score: 2
Rest of Cast: You'll recognize the parents in this film. Leslie's mom and dad are played by Pam Grier and James Pickens Jr. Grier's character has one note ... she wants her little girl to find a man. Pickens, Jr. has two notes. He loves his little girl more than anything, and he's Heathcliff Huxtable. No, not because he's black, but because he thinks he can fix anything around a house and you'll never guess ... he can't! Scott's mom is played by Phylicia Rashad who always is the perfect mom, she just isn't given much to do. NBA star Dwight Howard is given one scene, and that one scene is enough to know he shouldn't quit his day job. Score: 4
TALKING: There are some lines that work between Leslie and Scott. She gets him a birthday card after only meeting him once, and it says, "I got you a card, there's no money in it though." It's playful, and once again backs up the fact that Leslie is the type of person you make a friend. Other moments, like when they are playing cards work as well. That's about it. Otherwise, the script just continues to beat us over the head with obviousness. Everything is telegraphed, which in basketball terms means turnovers. Lots of turnovers. Score: 3
SIGHTS: For those thinking they're going to see a lot of basketball, that's not the case with this film. But let's over-dissect the basketball scenes anyway. Common makes it look like he's played some ball. First, they make him a PG, which is smart since he's clearly shorter than most players. He does a good job of keeping the ball low when he dribbles as well. There are some problems though. Based on some drills and moves when he finishes with a lay-up, it's clear he doesn't have a ton of hops. The boy can't dunk. Yet they still feel the need to do some cut shots with Scott throwing it down with ease. At least make him stretch for it, please! The film also suffers from SCS (shaky camera syndrome) during game play, especially at the All-Star game. This is probably because they could only get Dwight Howard and Dwayne Wade to play in it. Also, beyond the basketball, there are some continuity mistakes that are just terrible. The main one that stands out for me is when Leslie forces Scott out of bed with a bucket of ice. The bed goes from wet and covered with ice, to totally dry. That's just lazy. Score: 5
SOUNDS: You do know Queen Latifah and Common also sing, right? Beg, borrow, steal ... make sure their music is scattered throughout this film. While Latifah does have a song in the closing credits, I didn't hear Common once. Instead it just sounds like random pop songs, along with some jazz appreciation. Since Latifah is a die-hard Jersey girl, why not have her play Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days" as she jokes to Scott about not trying hard enough during rehab? You already brought up Joni Mitchell, so The Boss can have a place in this film. There, with that scene I would have made your film better by half a point. Score: 3
BEST SCENE: Tough to say, because nothing really stands out. Scott gives Leslie's car a makeover, which is pretty sweet, plus he's got the cash to do it. It works, even though the story behind the beat up car takes way too long to come out.
ENDING: It drags a little bit and makes you think this movie is well over two hours. And since it's a romance, Scott has to dramatically and quickly leave from somewhere to chase Leslie down, right? After that, we enter into sugary sweet territory. Made my gums hurt.
QUESTIONS: This might be a big questions section so bear with me. You have a chance to showcase the life of an NBA superstar, why not do some research? Scott has a Jerry Maguire-like agent, no entourage, and has been an NBA superstar for 10 years. He's also a sweetheart who just wants to love a good woman. OK, if that's what you want, fine ... but then can't you make this his first injury? Make him scared and depressed about not being able to play the game he loves. Don't make it a one minute montage, but instead really dive into it. Make him do actual physical therapy, and have his temper flare up unexpectedly. It wasn't even physical therapy in the film (I've been through it). That was just practice, which makes his return after eight weeks unbelievable. Make him truly apprehensive about gold diggers and what those women are really like in the NBA (you could use many real-life examples and I'm sure NBA players would be happy to point them out.) Plus, why would Morgan leave him after the injury? He's got 10 years of NBA money and a winning personality, isn't that what she's after? Just one more question, I swear ... do physical therapists really have agents?
REWATCHABILITY: I've never seen the NBA movie Eddie with Whoopi Goldberg. That sounds like a better time than giving this a second viewing.
The movie got the name correct. It's Just Wright. It's all about Leslie Wright. That's the focus of the film. Leslie wants a man for all the right reasons. Her god sister Morgan wants one for all the wrong reasons. I have no idea why we're stuck watching the first half of the film with Morgan almost becoming the focus. Maybe it's because director Sanaa Hamri doesn't care about the NBA superstar thing. She just cares about the problems women in their 30s have with getting, and holding onto, a man. The NBA parts are lazy. One example is getting Scott back for Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals because "We can't win without him." Really? He's been out half the season, you have home court advantage, and you've already beaten this other team three other times. Plus, you've already stated he doesn't look to be 100 percent. It sounds like you can win without him. Why have this film involve the NBA without honoring it? Common is never required to do any heavy lifting with this script, so I still have no idea if he can make the leap to leading man. Queen Latifah is fine, but we're continuously told to feel sorry for her and that gets old. I don't like saying the following sentence, but if you want compelling drama, maybe the reality show "NBA Wives" is the ticket, because it's definitely not this.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10