WARNING: the article contains spoilers about White Men Can’t Jump!!
In 1992, a film by Ron Shelton and with Woody Harrelson e Wesley Snipes in the role of protagonists, he made his appearance on the American scene. It was about White Men Can’t Jumptranslated into Italian with the title Anyone who doesn’t jump is whitea basketball film that later became a cult of the genre, joined, just four years later, by an even better known film with an exceptional star: Space Jam con Michael Jordan. Thirty years later, Calmatic offers a modern reinterpretation, which appeared on the Disney + platform among the news of May 2023. The American director, known for having worked on the creation of music videos and feature films House Party – not surprisingly, another remake of a film from the nineties -, he chose to start from the cue of the original to give the film a more modern cut and more in line with the times. This time it is the actor who takes on the part of the protagonists Sinqua Walls – mainly known to the audience of TV series, a little less to that of the big screen – and the rapper Jack Harlowhere at his first rehearsal as an actor. White Men Can’t Jumpin its updated version, is still a film about basketballeven if far from the films that scan the world of the NBA and the great stages of the ball in segments (on the same theme, Winning Time is a series that deserves to explode in Italy too). It is a film that is placed halfway between products for children – the American teen audience is bombarded with them on a regular basis – and the big titles on basketball – Air con Ben Affleck is one of the latest proposals to have conquered the public.
But let’s see what White Men Can’t Jump is about.
The film focuses on the story of two boys, apparently very different from each other, who discover they share a passion – and a certain talent – for basketball. Kamal (Sinqua Walls) is a former high school star, a great promise of the parquet who however had to give up his dreams following an arrest for a fight and his father’s health problems. Jeremy (Jack Harlow) is instead a white boy who makes ends meet by training young athletes in a gym near his home. He too was an old promise of basketball, he too forced to leave the field not due to being off the field, but due to a knee injury that cut short his career. The first, a big black boy, agile and impulsive. The second, a fanatic of supplements and detox diets, who is still able to make his presence felt in the field. Both have been forced to reinvent themselves, moreover at an age in which the great stages of the world of sport are almost closed. Both are flanked by companions (Laura Harrier is Tatiana, Jeremy’s girlfriend, while Teyana Taylor is Imani, Kamal’s girlfriend), who run the shack and who try to direct them towards the best life choices. Beset by economic and liquidity problems, forced to enter a working world that travels at speeds that are too high for those who are temporarily stuck in the pits, Kamal and Jeremy try to exploit their talent to raise some money in summer tournaments on concrete pitches .
More than a basketball movie, White Men Can’t Jump it’s a movie about streetball. The difference appears insignificant but is instead subtle and gives the product a different cut. Street basketball is one of the most played games in the United States. Playgrounds are an open-air container of hidden talents which, in the vast majority of cases, are destined to remain hidden. So the blinding lights of the franchise parquet are far away. The NBA is a mirage, as are the lower leagues. Instead, everything is consumed on the street, in the sunlight that burns the skin, with different, rougher rules. Streetball is a tougher, less forgiving game that comes closest to life. When you fall on the parquet, getting up costs less effort. If you fall on the concrete of a neighborhood playground, the bruises are more visible. And more painful. This is why the choice of street basketball also has a precise metaphorical meaning: Kamal and Jeremy’s match is a tough match, in which each can only count on their own strengths and those of their partner. A points match with life, in which whoever plays counters in the area wins, who has the courage to risk a blocked shot just to tap-in to the basket.
No superstars of the arenas, therefore. Just kids grappling with their personal challenges in a world that isn’t always forgiving and doesn’t offer everyone the same opportunities.
And on this point, the constant presence in the background of the city of The Angels seems to suggest just that: a distance visible to the naked eye between the big lights and skyscrapers of the big city and the cement of playgrounds, neighborhoods where you roll up your sleeves to make ends meet. There photography is excellent and the director uses it to underline the gap between unattainable things – success, the NBA, the great parquet floors of basketball stars – and the rough heart of the courts trampled every day by hundreds of different feet, almost never destined for fame . Despite the happy ending, typical of a film of this tenor, White Men Can’t Jump also try to photograph a cross-section of American society, far from the lights of the show under which we are used to looking at it. It is certainly not a film of denunciation – that is not the purpose, on the other hand -, but it offers a non-trivial interpretation, in line with the worries of modern times. White Men Can’t Jump then tackles another theme which, in proposals of the same kind, is touched only marginally, preferring the focus on talent and technical skills: the mental picture. Jeremy is in this sense a kind of playground guru, a white man who goes around in questionable sandals, who eats vegan and stuffs himself with supplements to detoxify mind and body. In sport he manages to stand out not only those who are talented, those who know how to hit the iron and put the opponent down with an enviable ball handling, but above all those who manage to free your mind from negative thoughts and to focus attention only on the goal.
Meditation, therapeutic paths, healthy lifestyles, in this sense, can offer a great hand.
White Men Can’t Jump does not reach who knows what depth, but is content to offer a story from light tonewithout too many pretensions, which knows how to convey some easily readable messages between the lines and which is confirmed, from this point of view, perfectly in line with the tastes of an audience – that of the Disney + platform – fond of titles of the genre.