Fox // 2010 // 100 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Kelly (Retired) // September 1st, 2010
In this game every shot counts.
Just Wright endured a fairly miserable Box-Office run at the start of the now climaxed 2010 summer season, and critics didn't really get onboard with the film either. It's not hard to see why. It's nice to see Queen Latifah assume a lead romantic role, but aside from her natural charisma, Just Wright is a total bust. The supporting cast are either underused or inept, whilst both the screenplay and direction take the term formulaic to the jarring extreme. Just Wright is a faceless and utterly unoriginal addition to the rom-com canon, a film so forgettable that the point of its very existence is debateable.
Leslie Wright (Queen Latifah, Stranger than Fiction) is a rabid basketball fan, a committed physical therapist, and an all round nice person. Yet she can't secure herself a man, most of her dates ending with guys wanting to be her buddy rather than pursuing a romantic relationship. After a chance meeting with basketball maestro Scott McKnight (Common, Terminator Salvation) Leslie falls head over heels, only for her superficial but more classically attractive sister (Paula Patton, Mirrors) to sweep the talented McKnight off his feet. When Scott endures a serious injury, Leslie is hired to rehabilitate the wounded sportsman, and the two slowly build a deep and soulful connection. However with the strains of NBA playoffs and Scott's unpredictable new fiancée clouding matters, the pair struggles to take their relationship to the next level.
The direction courtesy of Sanaa Hamri (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2) is appallingly indistinctive, the filmmaker helming the enterprise with no eye for visual style or onscreen chemistry. Just Wright looks like a TV movie and plays out like one too, Hamri moving through the clichéd rom-com paces with no energy or obvious passion for the lackluster material. Each scene is shot in a dull and static fashion, which coupled with the terminally mediocre screenplay leads to a distinctly underwhelming experience. The story goes exactly where you expect it to, but with no sense of fun or comedic rhythm. I'm not sure who thought it was appropriate to market this film as a romantic comedy because there are no laughs to be had with this venture, and only a few limp attempts to solicit them throughout. Of course under Hamri's uninspired direction, all sense of comic fizz might have been smothered by stacks of unrelenting blandness, but overall I can't see where the filmmakers thought they were even getting close to being funny.
The central romance is slow to unravel and is unsatisfactory when it does, the chemistry between Latifah and Common being practically non-existent. Latifah is sparky and upbeat enough, generally representing the film's only highlight, but Common is stilted and wooden from beginning to end. The actor only looks comfortable when he's on court playing basketball, because in any scene that requires him to actually act, he fires blanks. The emotional heart of the film is ultimately undone by Common's terrible performance, because as a consequence the relationship between Scott and Leslie never feels real or believable.
Paula Patton and Pam Grier (playing Leslie's mother) are wasted, the former reduced to an unfathomably inconsistent "bitchy" performance that just allows her to trot along in some seriously pretty outfits. Patton's whole role in the film is more of a plot mechanism than a character; the story providing no steady motives or reasoning for her loopy actions. The arc involving her romance with Scott also lends the film a slight hint of misogyny, after all it's obvious that Leslie is the better woman but Scott seems to prefer her sibling for most of the runtime because she's perkier in certain places. It's an odd and slightly uncomfortable undercurrent to run through a PG rated Hollywood fluff piece.
At 100 minutes I found the film a quarter hour too long, everything could have been wrapped up equally as effectively in a trimmer edit, and the audience's pain would have been lessened. The ending is an obvious denouement to conclude such a generic slice of tosh with, screenwriter Michael Elliot (Like Mike) embracing formula like it's going out of fashion. Just Wright is a movie with very little going for it, not even most undemanding multiplex audiences will be content to lap up such flavourless fodder. This is definitely a film to skip.
The DVD provided by Fox was a screener, but if the bonus content evidenced here is applicable to the final retail version, then it's going to be a slim release. Two featurettes are included, one examining the making off the film in about 6 minutes, the other focusing an unhealthy amount of attention on the underachieving leading man. The first is a little more watchable simply because it's less indulgent, although neither offers much to showcase why exactly anybody thought this was a project worth developing. Latifah talks it up no end, but rarely provides insight into why she actually believes it to be a worthwhile cinematic endeavour. It's an odd and more than slightly suspicious state of affairs. Also lumped into the mix are a gag reel and theatrical trailer. The sound and video quality on this screener was ample, but seeing as it is most likely a watered down version of the final product, I've elected not to consider these technical facets in my review.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Gag Reel