Dimension Films // 2008 // 95 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // December 10th, 2008
Girl got game.
No lie: The term "rag-tag group of misfit kids" is actually used in the text on the back of the disc. A clichéd synopsis for a clichéd movie.
Curtis Plummer (Ice Cube, Three Kings) is a washed-up former high school football star, eeking out an existence in rundown town. His dream: Save up enough money doing odd jobs to start a new life in Miami. His sister-in-law shakes up his boring world, by asking him to spend time with his niece Jasmine (Keke Palmer, Akeelah and he Bee) and soon discovers she has a talent for throwing a football.
After a series of light-hearted training montages, Curtis transforms Jasmine into a legit quarterback. Using his connections with the local Pop Warner football coaches, he gets her onto the team and...Surprise! She shocks everyone with her skill, wins over her teammates, and brings hope to her crappy little town.
The Longshots is as formulaic and predictable as you might think, but it's decent formula. Let's tick down the clichés: Plucky young girl harassed by the cool kids in her school? Check. Plucky young girl discovers hidden genius athletic talent that propels her to fame, popularity, and resentment from the cool kids? You bet. Rag-tag group of misfit kids that give crap to plucky young girl with the genius athletic talent until they realize she's a great player? Righty-o! Plucky team of rag-tag misfit kids who had only known how to lose reel off a miraculous series of wins, making it to the championship game thanks to plucky young girl with the genius athletic talent? @#$% yeah!
On the periphery of the main feel-good sports narrative are a number of smaller side-stories, including Curtis' burgeoning romance with a schoolteacher, the reappearance of Jasmine's deadbeat father, and the reinvigoration of the town. These all work fine enough and fit together well with the main "longshots" storyline, all playing out pretty much as you'd expect. Which is the main criticism to lob at The Longshots: you've seen this movie many, many, many times before.
But to the credit of director Fred Durst -- yep, that Fred Durst -- it all works. There are no surprises (save for one little twist in the championship game), but if you're on the prowl for a family-friendly, PG-rated, feel-good-a-rama that is crammed full of rousing speeches and a sweeping, syrupy score, here you go.
Dimension has put together a solid if unremarkable Blu-ray disc. The 1.85:1 high-def widescreen exhibits a definite bump-up in visual fidelity as compared to standard DVD. Though the color saturation is muted and thick with washed-out grays and browns -- a stylistic choice, reflective of the sad, ramshackle nature of the town -- the detailing is strong. The football games are infused with slightly more color, thanks to the team's orange uniforms and a variety of locales, especially the tropical venue at the film's denouement.
The headlining audio treatment is a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, which concerns itself primarily with delivering dialogue, though the mix asserts itself more during the footballs scenes (of which there are surprisingly few), when the dramatic music and the bone-crunching(ish) sound effects kick in.
Extras: A handful of deleted scenes, a nice making-of documentary, short interviews with Fred Durst and Ice Cub, and a look at the real Jasmine Plummer, whose story is -- surprise! -- not really anything like the one in the movie.
You've seen this game-plan executed often before, but despite the aching familiarity of it all, The Longshots does it well enough to earn a lukewarm recommendation for families looking for inoffensive -- though inconsequential -- fare. The Blu-ray looks and sounds good, though the extras don't excite.
Not Guilty, though the court isn't sure how many more of these underdog kids sports teams movies it can take.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Dimension Films
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p Widescreen)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Deleted Scenes