With summer quickly approaching and the weather getting warmer, millions will be headed to the movies on dates. The right date movie is crucial to the date; it needs to have something to keep both parties interested. Just in time for the summer season comes “Just Wright,” the modern-day Cinderella story, set against an NBA backdrop which attempts to provide the love story that we want while mixing in just enough sports to keep guys awake.
What “Just Wright” lacks in great acting, it makes up for it charm. Queen Latifah stars as Leslie Wright, a physical therapist that lands the job of a lifetime rehabilitating NBA superstar Scott McKnight, played by rapper turned actor Common. Latifah is the typical always-the-bridesmaid-never-the-bride hopeless romantic. Albeit annoying at times, Latifah is a genuinely likeable figure.
In his first role of any significance, Common serves as an acceptable and impeccably dressed co-star. During his on-court scenes as the star of the New Jersey Nets, Common is dwarfed by the likes of Dwayne Wade and Dwight Howard but exhibits some actual skills- perhaps a product of his father being an ABA player, or the vigorous basketball training he underwent during filming. Given the season the Nets just had, they may have to consider actually signing him.
Latifah and Common have genuine on-screen chemistry, a product of their real-life counter parts actually having much as much in common as their characters on-screen.
“Just Wright” gets some additional substance and comedy in the form of supporting cast. Paula Patton excels as Latifah’s gold-digging best friend. Her conniving and calculating temptress endeavors are hilarious in their ridiculousness. She is responsible for some of the funniest scenes in the film, and she is sexiest thing this side of the Milky Way. James Pickens Jr. plays Wright’s overprotective father, willing to any means to see his little princess happy. Pickens is yet another genuinely likeable and believeable character.
For his first major role in a film, Common struggles at points, letting the ultra-mellow Common the artist prevent him from truly showing certain emotions when needed to make the role work. Latifah is slightly annoying in her attempts to be the home-girl that every guy wants as a friend. For all the flaws in the actors’ performances, they seemed Oscar-worthy compared to the atrocious performances by the NBA players, the worst by far being Howard. It’s truly amazing that someone could stink at playing themself.
Nonetheless, the film shows a few too many shades of “Love and Basketball.” Wright’s relationship with her mother, played by Pam Grier, being a prime example. One scene is a straight rip off of the movie. Overall, the plot was unoriginal and predictable, but most love stories are. The crew could have made a better effort in making the movie more believable. If the main character lives in New Jersey, why is she driving over the Queens Borough Bridge during her commute to the city to work?
For all its flaws, “Just Wright” ideally serves the purpose it was intended for: a feel good love story which mixes just enough sports in with the sappiness to keep guys awake while on a date to the movies. Common delivers a valiant effort in his first role that requires actual acting ability. The supporting cast brings some refreshing comedy and all the characters are easy to like and to identify with. “Just Wright” comes just in time for the summer date season.