Directed by: Fred Durst (The Education of Charlie Banks)
Starring: Ice Cube, Keke Palmer, Tasha Smith, Dash Mihok, Matt Craven
Want to know the definition of a hack? I present to you Fred Durst, the front man of rap-metal outfit Limp Bizkit and director of the latest inspiring sports opus to hit theaters, The Longshots. Now, this isn’t a comment on Durst’s musical, um, talents, but rather on the film he decided to make: a movie so generic, formulaic and listless that any old irrelevant rock star with a camera could’ve made it.
The movie is one of those “based on a true story” ordeals that takes a few nuggets of true story and expounds upon it in order to create a treacly, heartwarming tale of perseverance in the face of, we are assured, overwhelming odds. In this case, we get the tale of Jasmine (Keke Palmer, Akeelah and the Bee), an awkward, shy middle-school student who was abandoned by her father years earlier. When her mother (Tasha Smith, Why Did I Get Married?) is forced to work longer hours, Jasmine’s hard-luck uncle—and onetime high-school football star—Curtis (Ice Cube) is asked to keep her company after school. At first the two hardly get along—that is until Curtis finds out Jasmine can chuck a pigskin all of 10 yards. So, he decides to teach her the game of football.
From there, Jasmine joins her down-on-its-luck town’s down-on-its-luck Pop Warner football team at the urging of her down-on-his-luck uncle. It’s simple to see where the movie is headed from this point, from Jasmine dealing with her deadbeat-dad issues to her burgeoning friendship with Curtis. Somehow any attempts at being something different are rendered inconsequential. There’s the tiniest bit of deviation from the standard formula in the outcome of the movie’s climactic big game, but all it creates is the opportunity to show what “truly winning” really is. The film remains nothing more than Uplifting Sports Drama 101, with its schmaltzy clarinet score and swelling string accompaniment, and even ending with the inevitable rising-crane shot. And is it possible to think up a more boring title?
The story is drab, the direction is devoid of any style, and any depth the characters might contain is completely steamrolled out of them, meaning Palmer is utterly wasted and Ice Cube is left at his most innocuous and bland. But let’s be serious, Mr. Cube ran out of any goodwill he had left over from Three Kings (1999) and the Barbershop flicks (2002 and 2004) somewhere between xXx: State of the Union (2005) and Are We Done Yet? (2007).
The tone of The Longshots is amiable enough, but it’s wrapped in such an insipid, often hokey exterior that it hardly matters. Yes, there are worse movies out there right now. But it’d be harder to find anything more ordinary and uninteresting than The Longshots. Rated PG for some thematic elements, mild language and brief rude humor.