Reel Shorts | The Longshots

22 08 2008

There is nothing in the trailer that bodes well for the football comedy, “The Longshots.” Thank God that the finished product is superior to the small sum of it’s advertised parts giving Ice Cube one of his best comedic roles since “Barbershop.”

Channeling his “inner Hancock,” Cube stars as Curtis Plummer a skull-cap wearing shell of a man who has mentally shut everyone and everything out of his world. His life revolves around two things, his can of brew and the football that is his constant companion. Formerly a high-school football star, Curtis’ fortunes mirror the sad, depressed town of Minden that he calls home.

Meanwhile on the other side of town, shy introverted high-school student Jasmine Plummer (Keke Palmer) is also having her share of struggles. With a deadbeat missing dad, no friends and unable to connect to her peers who thinks she’s strange, she finds solace and peace in books. With the insistence of her concerned, but busy mother, Claire (Tasha Smith), she is paired with her emotionally distant uncle Curtis to provide her company. Both Curtis and Jasmine connect in a way that changes both of their lives, for the better.

While Jasmine secretly has dreams of being a fashion model, her crude, “politically incorrect” uncle finds her another diversion. One day while playing catch, Jasmine flashes an amazingly strong arm and no time, Curtis is training her to be a quarterback. With a pitiful team and not too many options, Jasmine’s winning presence inspires the team and the downcast small town taking them all the way to the Pop Warner Super Bowl. Based on a true story, the joy of the film is not in the cliched winning and losing, but how both Jasmine and Curtis’ relationship evolves helping both get what they need.

For much of the film, Jasmine holds out hope that she can have a relationship with her missing father. Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees and for Jasmine spending time with Curtis, she fails to see that what she so desires is there all along. But she is not the only one who benefits. When he inadvertently embarrasses her during “Career Day,” Jasmine notices that her matronly teacher, Ms. Macer (Jill Jones) is smitten with her clueless uncle. In exchange for trying out for the team, she forces Curtis to ask her teacher out.

Initially the team wants nothing to do with its new player, but like in most sports films (and real life) the moment they understand that she can help them win the attitude changes dramatically. Before you can say “Tom Brady,” not only the team but the town begins to flourish and thrive thanks to “Jasmine and the Team.” She even learns life lessons such as anybody can be a daddy, but it takes courage and strength to be a father.

The pairing of gangsta rapper, Cube and Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst (making his directorial debut) is inspiring. One would never have thought that the two volatile artist on wax could collaborate on such a cute, tender inspiring story.

Ironically, “The Longshots” is very similar to Palmer’s breakout film, “Akeelah and the Bee.” This time around Palmer doesn’t take up spelling as a hobby, this time around its football. Where the community rallies around her to help support her dream of winning the bee, her presence reinvigorates a dying community this time around. Standing in for the no non-sense professor played by Laurence Fishburne, former N.W.A. member Cube breaks down and builds Palmer back up in this tale. Even Smith supportive character mirrors Angela Bassett’s skeptical, yet supportive mother from “Bee.”

Is the story cliched? Absolutely. Can you see the plot twist coming a mile away? Sure you can. Does that prevent you from enjoying the story? Not a chance.

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and the fact that this film shadows a similar film so close is the key ingredient that helps it go all the way.

Grade: B

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