Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

White Men Can’t Jump reimagining narrowly avoids an air ball

Music video director Calmatic reimagines another nineties classic for his second feature film in White Men Can’t Jump from Hulu. Kenya Barris and Doug Hall pen the screenplay from a story they co-wrote with Ron Shelton, director and writer of the original film.

After injuries stall his game, Jeremy (Jack Harlow), a Caucasian former hoops star, spends his day hustling unsuspecting marks underestimating his skills on the court while trying to support his live-in girlfriend Tatiana (Laura Harrier). Across the city, Kamal (Sinqua Walls), another once-a-promising player who derailed his future in the sport, is trying to raise his son, keep his girlfriend Imani (Teyana Taylor) happy and live up to the standard set forth by Benji (Lance Reddick) his father and former coach who now suffers from MS.

Naturally, Jeremy pulls one over on Kamal. However, Kamal sees the ruse as a lucrative opportunity, and they become partners in the con game, plying their trade across the courts of Los Angeles as they prepare to compete in a tournament that pays 500K. Along the way, the duo must contend with Jermaine (J. Alphonse Nicholson), a trash talker who often antagonizes Kamal. The two baller opposites are miles apart as Jeremy and Kamal juggle tenuous relationships, financial pressures, and severe internal struggles. As fate would have it, though, they might have more in common than they imagined.

The remake of White Men Can’t Jump has arrived with very little hype, much like other remakes. I fondly remember watching the original film when I was eleven and being impressed by Wesley and Woody’s basketball skills. The soundtrack was also a highlight, with the title song by Riff still on my playlist. 

Given my appreciation for Calamtic’s work on House Party and my admiration for Kenya Barris’ writing style, I approached this remake with optimism. One of the first things I want to tell potential viewers about the remake of White Men Can’t Jump is the film’s fundamentally different vibe. 

The script gives our two leads different motivations as opposed to a means of survival in the original. Hustling marks and taunting opponents play a part in the movie, but in 2023, our lead characters have legitimate pro hoop dreams. Sinqua Walls adds authenticity to the role of Kamal with relatable flaws and personal challenges while showcasing natural athletic ability on the basketball court.

Although there isn’t a standout character that steals the show as Rosie Perez did in the original, there are some notable performances from the supporting cast. Fresh off her award-worthy performance in A Thousand and One, Teyana Taylor continues to show her talent. The late Lance Reddick also impresses in a minor role, exuding a coolness that fans will appreciate. Additionally, Myles Bullock and Vince Staples provide some great moments of comic relief.

Many people are wondering how Jack Harlow, a Hip Hop artist, performs as our second lead. I must admit that being 42 years old, I haven’t paid much attention to him. Nonetheless, I gave his second album a chance last year and was pleasantly surprised by his talent. In his first movie role, Jack does a decent job.

The script caters to Harlow and possibly how the outside world views him. Harlow portrays Jeremy, a health-nut hipster who knows how to trash talk but in an eccentric way. Barris and his scriptwriters could have easily turned Jeremy into a culture vulture, but they avoid stereotypes and let the laughs happen naturally.

Mostly, I enjoyed White Men Can’t Jump, but there are some gripes. Generally, this film is its own thing, so other than the brand name; it didn’t need the same title. Also, Laura Harrier is wasted as Harlow’s love interest and deserves better. Nevertheless, while it doesn’t reach the greatness of the source material, the remake of White Men Can’t Jump is enjoyable enough for fans of Jack Harlow and basketball.

Final Grade: B-

White Men Can’t Jump begins streaming on May 19, 2023, exclusively on Hulu 

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