Dimension Films // 2008 // 95 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // January 9th, 2009
The new coach has a secret weapon.
As far as inspirational sports dramas go, Fred Durst's second directing effort, The Longshots, doesn't step into new territory. On the other hand, the film does tell a heartwarming and mildly entertaining story that carries enough energy to please younger viewers.
Inspired by a true story, the film focuses on Jasmine Plummer (Keke Palmer, Akeelah and the Bee), a smart high school girl who doesn't have any friends and spends most of her time reading fantasy novels. When her mother picks up an extra shift at the city diner, Jasmine hangs out with her unemployed uncle Curtis (Ice Cube, First Sunday), a former high school football star who spends most of his time doing absolutely nothing.
But spending some quality time with his niece suddenly brings new light into Curtis' life, and before you know it, he's doing everything in his power to get Jasmine to try out for the local football team. Of course, Jasmine is a natural talent, and within just a few weeks of training, she's leading the weak team to a series of surprising victories.
If you're looking for a sports flick that follows the conventions of the genre and plays it strictly by the book, look no further. Everything you see in The Longshots is strikingly familiar, with no surprises. Once Curtis and Jasmine get past the "I don't like you" attitude and start throwing balls, it's pretty easy to figure out where the film is heading. Jasmine quickly discovers new joy in her life by helping her crappy team win game after game, while Curtis finally comes across an opportunity to abandon his self-pity and do something with his talent himself. We've been there, seen that may times before.
Still, despite the film's standard formula, plenty of saccharine dialogue, and a series of sappy subplots that are supposed to increase the story's dramatic effect, I have to admit The Longshots is never really boring. I know that sounds rather surprising, but the plot moves along at a steady pace thanks to a series of vibrant practice sessions and a solid dose of football action. Fred Durst doesn't break any new ground with his direction, but his work behind the camera deserves some praise nonetheless.
I'm certainly not a fan of Ice Cube's recent efforts in the comedy genre, but drama seems to suit him a lot better. I wouldn't call his performance as Curtis memorable, really, but he's certainly more enjoyable to watch than usual. Acting honors, however, go to the highly talented Keke Palmer, who brings along just the right amount of energy in the role of Jasmine. She delivers a very honest and credible performance, and I'm sure she's got a fabulous career ahead of her.
The disc carries a decent enough 1.85:1 widescreen presentation, which delivers a sharp, clean image throughout. The film has an overall gloomy look to it, but the video transfer handles it quite well. The audio transfer works just as fine, with the dialogue, soundtrack, and sound effects (mostly during the football games) balanced fairly well.
As far as the special features are concerned, this standard edition includes two brief interviews with Fred Durst and Ice Cube, who mainly talk about what it was like to work with each other. Durst also touched on the characters and the story of the film, while Cube offers his take on the story's main themes. Besides a bunch of deleted scenes, the bonus material also features a solid behind-the-scenes featurette, which includes both footage from the set and interviews with the cast. Wrapping up this section is "The Real Longshot," a quick but interesting look at the real story of Jasmine Plummer.
If you're sick and tired of having your kids watch animated flicks, this feel-good movie is certainly a good alternative. It's definitely a predictable sports drama, but if that's what you're looking for, The Longshots won't disappoint.
Not guilty, but something new in the genre would be appreciated.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Dimension Films
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site