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Saturday, 5 November 2016

Weekend TV Movie Review: Just Wright (2010), Film 4

Just Wright
Cast: Queen Latifah, Common, Paula Patton, James Pickens Jr. Pam Grier, Phylicia Rashad, Laz Alonso, Dwight Howard, Dwayne Wade
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $21 million  

Plot: Physical therapist Leslie Wright (Queen Latifah) lands the dream job of working with basketball superstar, Scott McKnight (Common). All goes well until Leslie finds that she is falling in love with him. Scott however is oblivious to Leslie's romantic overtures and focuses his attention on Morgan (Paula Patton), Leslie's gorgeous friend, who would love to be the basketball player's trophy wife. 

'The Film's Good Intentions Go Astray As Just Wright Just Can't Help Feeling It's Mostly Wrong'

Just Wright is a fantasy, rather than a reality and unfortunately, for all its promise, it just didn't live up to its expectations. Much like with 'Hitch', as in Alex Hitchens played by Will Smith in that other romantic comedy epic, the Wright in the self -title is in reference to the lead character, Leslie Wright: a role undertaken by rapper turned actress, Queen Latifah. 

Leslie is a physical trainer, who is an ardent and passionate fan of the New York Nets NBA basketball team, who falls for the team's star player, Scott McKnight, after an unexpected 'meet cute'-type scenario at a gas station. Things get a little more complicated when Scott is engaged to Morgan, and when Morgan finds out about Scott and Leslie she gets involved, and all manner of things start to occur. 

Despite its solid casting, the film just buckles over plot holes/ story-lines that get picked up -only for them to get dropped. & yet as disappointingly, Just Wright's biggest problems are 1) the script itself, 2) the humour and 3) the characterisation. No -name minor characters,- of whom the audience can't relate to as they disappear quickly after they have appeared, experienced veterans Pam Grier and Phylicia Rashad are severely underutilised - and yet just as disappointingly, they barely share one scene in this film together. Common is more convincing as a pro basketball player and less so as a love interest to Queen Latifah. After previous efforts in Wanted, Terminator Salvation and Smokin' Aces, here, he lacks the charisma & appeal for this type of role-  and for that alone, that didn't convince me enough as a romantic male love interest with Just Wright. And finally with Paula Patton, after her tremendous turn in Precious, her role as the rival to Latifah's Leslie, comes across as insipid and she is reduced to being on the sidelines of a background character. Although I guess I don't really see Morgan as a conniving bad girl or antagonist in this movie, the way the writers approached that character was pretty poor in my eyes. 

The chemistry between Common and Queen Latifah wasn't convincing, as it shifts from platonic to romantic and it felt more like brother and sister than potential lovers. Latifah is likeable and oozes pleasantness that isn't annoying, but it felt like her hooking up with Common's Scott felt more tacked on than as a relationship that is believable as this film tries to make it out to be. 

The NBA - related parts and basketball scenes are all right, but some of them don't make sense; with the New York Nets in the Eastern Conference finals saying they can't win without him. And yet he, as in Scott, had been injured for most of that period and they had beaten all those other teams in order to get to where they are? That, therefore, is far-fetched. 

This is a somewhat muddled and tame take on the cliched rom-com formula, supported by an under-cooked screenplay that is in dire need of adjustments & improvements in certain areas. & this is unfortunately yet another case where as massively talented as Queen Latifah is as an actress, her talents are not often harnessed in movies or be it as such she frequently opts for projects that do not fully take advantage of, as well as stretch her acting talents to the maximum. Although I did like her in Beautyshop, which was all right. For a rom-com to work, you need a convincing leading man or woman as a lovable-yet unlucky loser protagonist and an equally awesome male or female love interest: someone who can fulfil the shoes of that lover- to- be and of whom we see as a viable and plausible partner for the lead character by exerting that charm. & one would expect that unlikely pairing to fall in love, fall out of love, then back in love for the last third of the movie. Rom-coms need charm and chemistry to make the film work, and unfortunately, it just didn't come out from Queen Latifah and Common. 

There was no romanticism or none of that romantic spark from this pairing. 

Plus, for a movie labelled as a romantic comedy, there are also very few laughs to be found, the major plot twists - which would have elevated this movie- are virtually non-existent and it plays out more like a peppy drama. 

When it comes to African American rom-coms, some of my favourite examples are Halle Berry and Eddie Murphy in Boomerang, Eddie Murphy and Shari Headley in Coming to America, Morris Chestnut and Vivica A Fox in Two Can Play That Game & Jamie Foxx and Gabrielle Union in Breaking All The Rules. Whereas Just Wright is nowhere as good and appealing as those movies for me: the narrative is uninspired, awkward and not very interesting - that and what also separates this film from those efforts is that they each had an actor and actress, who had and emitted that onscreen chemistry. Which relates back to my argument about Latifah's and Common's unconvincing chemistry as a pairing. 

The sports rom-com is no stranger to the film world: it worked well with Love and Basketball and not quite as well in Forget Paris. Just Wright falls more in line with the latter.

Final Verdict:

Whilst Just Wright has an interesting premise, the screenplay and add to it the main casting of Latifah and Common didn't do this movie much justice. James Pickens Jr, Phylicia Rashad and Pam Grier's notable efforts are not given much prominence either. By placing all of the emphasis on the 3 lead roles, Queen Latifah, Common and Paula Patton whilst further under utilising its older supporting cast members, undercuts this film, making you wonder why the writer or director ever considered including them, - if she wasn't going to make the most out of their inclusions. 

Yes, as a romantic comedy it's predictable, but Just Wright is a huge disappointment in many respects and as much as I like Queen Latifah, her romance with Common just didn't work for me and the script is a bit of a drab. Despite Latifah's impressive work rate, the thing is this movie is not of her own doing but everyone else's as well and but for Pickens, Rashad and Grier & the basketball players, the rest of the main cast fall short. 

Considering African American rom-coms are few and far between, as unfortunate as it is for me to say but this one is not very good. After 25 or 30 mins into the film, one is able to suss out what happens in the end and when I did, I didn't really care much for it, nor for the main characters. 

Just Wright just wasn't enjoyable enough for me.

Time to go back to re-watching Boomerang and Two Can Play That Game I guess. 


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