Crimson Forest Films // 2008 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 4th, 2009
There's always that struggle before the victory.
Slam tells the story of three young boys named Mouth, Monkey and Jason. Mouth is a quiet, almost sad kid who idolizes NBA players and spends nearly every waking moment honing his basketball skills. Monkey is the short, quick point guard whose aggressive case of little man syndrome often gets everyone into trouble. Jason is the visiting street-smart tough from America, almost as good at freestyle rapping as he is at dribbling.
These are our heroes. Our villains? A team of streetballers known as "The Hawks" who always find a way to act like jerks. Eventually The Hawks and Mouth, Monkey and Jason will have a chance to settle their differences in the first annual streetball competition. And mark my words friend, it will be a barnburner, or the equivalent Chinese vernacular for "highly competitive basketball game."
I liked this movie, though two big things hold it back from being something truly special: 1) it was predictable and 2) the basketball hoops couldn't have been more than eight feet tall. Well, it wasn't entirely predictable. There was a nice turn of events at the end that kept Slam from being relegated to the heap of Sports Movies That You Know Will End Just Like That Episode of Family Matters When Urkel Played for the High School Basketball Team. But aside from that, the beats Slam hits are hugely familiar. The friends encounter conflict, surmount it, enter the basketball tournament, happen to be seeded in the opposite bracket as their arch-rivals, Mouth has a major falling-out with his Dad who Just Doesn't Understand, and wouldn't you know it -- SPOILER WARNING FOR THOSE OF YOU THAT HAVE NEVER SEEN A SPORTS MOVIE -- Dad shows up in time to see his son play in the championship game and even dunk the ball, which by the way he had been trying to do through like eight montages.
Unfortunately, that dunk lost some of its impressiveness when you consider the hoops are about two feet shy of regulation. The final game in particular looks less like an all-star streetball challenge and more like the Leapfrogs and Polliwogs Invitational. The basketball action -- which was shot well and executed nicely by the actors, who obviously have some balling skills -- loses some of its luster when you see how low the rims are.
Anyway, these complaints aside, I did enjoy Slam. It's formula, but it's top-grade formula. The three lead characters are likable, especially Mouth, and their antagonists are righteous jerks, especially the Evil Coach. The subplot with Mouth's beta-male father may be predictable, but it works.
The Crimson Forest DVD is adequate, though all the disc case text is in Chinese. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen video quality is clean, though there were a few moments when the picture jumbled. A quick forward and backward scan remedied it. The audio mix (also in Chinese, but subtitled in English) is solid and pushes the catchy hip-hop soundtrack well. Extras: a music video and a trailer.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Crimson Forest Films
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Chinese)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Music Video
* Official Site