He Got Game (1998)

Spike Lee's made a basketball movie!  And it's a slam-dunk snooze-
fest, baby!  HE'S GOT GAME stars NBA star Ray Allen as Jesus Shut-
tlesworth, a Coney Island high-school sensation being courted by 
every agent, scout, and collegiate coach on the East Coast.  His 
classmates keep at him.  His girlfriend's on someone's payroll.  
Even his former guardian uncle has become corrupted by the promise 
of a payoff.  (That's Bill Nunn as the colorfully offensive Uncle 
Bubba.)  The Holy One is offered cash, cars, platinum watches, and 
more [booty] that he would know what to do with.  (Most of the time 
Jesus just says no.)  Undecided on which school to attend and with 
less than a week before he must make up his mind, out of the blue 
arrives his father (Denzel Washington), a convicted murderer on a 
"special favor" work release.  And, yup, *he's* got an agenda as 
well.  (Are you ready for this one:  the governor wants the boy to 
sign with *his* former school, so he talks to the warden, who talks 
to the con, and makes dad an offer he shouldn't refuse.  And you 
thought ACC fans were fanatics!) 

As if detailing the pressures of inner-city sports success didn't 
carry enough dramatic weight, Spike splinters the story in several 
directions, ranging from dad's desire to re-bond (rebound?) with 
his son to a throwaway love story pairing the D man with Milla 
Jovovich (THE FIFTH ELEMENT), unrecognizable as a battered hooker.  
(Boring.  Gimme more of Washington's character trying to adjust to 
his temporarily found freedom.  He acts awfully casual in a world 
without bars.)  Lots and lots of story and, yet, a surprisingly 
small amount of round ball.  Maybe thirty minutes worth of hoopla, 
if that.  The rest is chatter, often lacking electricity but well-
filmed by cameraman Malik Hassan Sayeed.  (The visuals score, but 
the music's an air ball.  The score, set to Aaron Copland, is most-
ly distracting.)  Washington is clearly the cast's MVP; Allen is a 
blander, less-interesting presence.  (Eh, the whole movie's kinda 
bland, so he fits.)  In addition to numerous (and unsurprising) 
cameos-- of everyone from Shaq to some guy named Dean Smith-- the 
supporting cast also includes Jim Brown, Ned Beatty, and John 
Tuturro, the latter who elicited this response from one audience 
member:  "doesn't Spike Lee know any other actors?"  (Rated "R"/
~135 min.)

Grade: C

Copyright 1998 Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies as MOVIE HELL: He Shoots! He Doesn't Score!

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