We are all already aware of Disney’s remake fever, which never stops recreating its classic hits in new versions. But among all the expensive live action innovations for animated films and anticipated blockbusters there is also a much smaller and much more interesting remake – “white men can’t” (White Men Can’t Jump).
The film is of course a modern remake of the sports comedy from 1992, in which they starred at the time Woody Harrelson and-Wesley Snipes About two amateur basketball players who cheat people in impromptu games, and steal money from those who assume that the white guy in front of them can’t really play basketball.
The new film leaves the basic plot, and updates it for the modern audience. He doesn’t feel the need to bring back the original characters or tell us that the new players are the children of the characters we knew. Instead, the film simply brings a new, entertaining and relatable story to fans of the original and those who have never heard of it at all.
White men can’t – the plot
The film follows Kamal (Cinqua Waltz), a basketball player who had great promise in his youth with a future in the NBA, but now works as a courier following a violent incident for which he was arrested upon graduation from high school – which ended his plans to play in college and enter the draft.
In one of his impromptu games with his friends, Kamal meets Jeremy (Jack Harlow), a white and non-threatening young man who bets with him on a shooting competition. Kamal obviously underestimates the abilities of the guy in front of him who looks like any rich white spoiled brat, but very quickly realizes who he is dealing with.
With both careers stalled and debts piling up, they decide to team up and earn enough money from local basketball scrimmages to raise entry fees for a two-on-two tournament with a half-million dollar prize.
A formula that works
“White Men Can’t” is a classic sports movie, which knows how to set us a simple and clear goal in the form of the tournament with the cash prize. It works on a familiar dynamic of the “odd couple”, and does it perfectly. The two opposites feel like they could never work together, but quickly become friends who will change each other’s lives.
The filmmakers adapted it to fit the Tiktok era, and updated the characters for the younger audience. Jeremy is an Instagram influencer who is addicted to health shakes and yoga, and who lives by cheap life improvement slogans. It is very easy to understand why no one would suspect that this is a gifted basketball player who is no less talented than the blacks.
But the film is also aware of the more modern times, and that it can no longer just rely on the racial differences between the two. In one scene, Jeremy explains to Kamal that it is not enough to rely on his color to deceive the other players – everyone already knows that whites can play basketball too.
Instead, the contempt for Jeremy comes from a more personal aspect, and he completely knows how to use what is thought of him to his advantage. But the pretense seeps into other aspects of his life, causing him to lie to his clients and his company as well.
Main character syndrome
While Kamel’s story leads the film, it is Jack Harlow who conquers the screen in the role of Jeremy. Although this is the first film role of the famous rapper, Harlow seems to be sewn on the character.
Jeremy is not an easy character to portray – he is supposed to be a little annoying and uses this fact to drive the basketball players in front of him crazy and get under their skin in the hope that their anger will lead to losing the game.
Throughout the film, Jeremy insults everyone, presses on their weak points, and even allows himself to be perceived as a racist and say things that are not exactly politically correct. Harlow manages to do this with enough grace that we don’t believe he really is. He’s just a little innocent and a little manipulative, but it’s hard not to want to be his friends.
On the other hand, Kamal suffers from the “main character” syndrome – his personality is not particularly interesting, and relies mainly on the fact that we will like him because of his tragic past story. That is, we love him less and pity him more, and therefore hope that he will succeed in the end.
Rhythmic but flawed direction
The film draws a lot from the Los Angeles vibe, and in the hands of director Kalmatic becomes rhythmic and musical. Kalmatic started out as a music video director for artists like Pharrell, Kendrick Lamar and Lil Nas, and the film definitely feels influenced by the rap and hip-hop scene. But the move to cinema also brought with it a certain lack of creativity and reliance on too familiar ideas.
The film is shot in orange tones, which create a sweaty and uncomfortable atmosphere. On the one hand, they contribute to the atmosphere of stress and poverty in which the characters find themselves, but the lack of color detracts from what should be a fun and lighter film. The direction takes a dramatic side which is not always appropriate and sometimes kills the more humorous parts of the script.
Bottom line – what did we think of “white men can’t”?
“White Men Can’t” doesn’t try to surprise us at any point, and follows a familiar template of sports movies. But there is a reason this template has become popular – it just works, and creates a fun and captivating film that doesn’t require us to watch too closely.
With a dreamy length of 95 minutes, it is perfect for home viewing and proves that there are films that are always ripe for a remake without compromising the classics we loved and still providing something new.
“White Men Can’t” will be shown on Disney+ Israel on May 19, 2023.
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