Let me first issue a warning to my brethren about the Queen Latifah romantic comedy Just Wright. Your significant other may try to convince you to see it on the grounds that it is, ahem, “a basketball movie.”
It is indeed a basketball movie — by the director of The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants 2.
It takes place in a bizarro world where the New Jersey Nets are the Eastern Conference champs. In this Kobe-and-LeBron-free world, the league MVP is a six-foot point guard named Scott McKnight (hip-hopper Common), who, in lamely filmed game sequences, is “covered” by real-life superstars Dwight Howard and Dwyane Wade as if he had radioactive cooties.
So OK, it’s not exactly Hoosiers.
Just Wright is, in fact, a lukewarm rom-com that avoids some cliches typical of the genre (see our review of Letters To Juliet) in favour of cliches of the Tyler Perry genre. Director Sanaa Hamri delivers a warm-hearted African American-targeted homily in which the two people who belong together don’t start out at war. But they do take a while to find each other while
the guy is distracted by that Perry staple, “the scheming skinny bitch.”
Pretty slimmed down herself these days, Latifah plays Leslie Wright, a physical trainer and basketball fan who has lots of guy friends but no boyfriend, and whose “God-sister” Morgan (Paula Patton) aspires to nothing less than to marry an NBA player and live on easy street.
When Wright and McKnight “meet cute” at a gas station, he invites her to a birthday party at his house. She brings along Morgan, who immediately cracks open The Rules and begins a cynical campaign of manipulation that ultimately leads to McKnight asking her to marry him.
That is, until McKnight suffers a potentially career-ending knee injury in the All-Star game, and Leslie puts her magic fingers to work on saving his career.
What follows is a fairly predictable arc, with Morgan leaving her has-been fiance and Leslie and Scott finding out they make beautiful music together (literally at one point, after she discovers Scott secretly plays jazz piano). Latifah and Common do a pretty good impression of two people who enjoy each other’s company.
Once this vibe is in motion, there aren’t many roadblocks to our lovebirds visible on the horizon — the only one of note being whether Scott will take Morgan back once she shows up at this door all sorry. In the one deviation from the Perry principle — where one-note characters at least stay consistently bitchy or evil — Just Wright tries to soften everybody’s rough edges by the end, to an extent that defies dramatic logic.
Which is still not as hard to swallow as Common taking Dwight Howard to school.
(This film is rated PG)