Move aside Disney and mainstream father figures that dominate Hollywood films and TV. Ice Cube’s upcoming movie “The Longshots” is the latest in a string of family flicks that’s giving the movie going audience a new take on black life in America.
Talk about warm and fuzzy, “The Longshots” is one of those great ‘little’ films that carry a lot of weight. Based on a true story, “The Longshots” has heart, tender moments, and a lot of laughs thrown in for good measure.
Ice Cube stars as “Curtis,” a man who once had a lot of dreams, but little by little he saw them fade away because of fate, the economy and the death of a loved one. He was despondent and simply gave up. Curtis was preparing to leave his small hometown and try to start a new life in Miami once he saved enough money. In the meantime, he is content drinking beer, hanging out at the high school football practices, and basically being angry at the world.
Cube is affectionally known as Uncle Curtis to his niece Jasmine (Keke Palmer, “Akeelah and the Bee”) who has her own problems. High school can be tough for kids who feel they are on the outside looking in, and such is the case with Jasmine who buries herself in books.
Like most teens, Palmer’s character looks to media stars for inspiration. Tyra Banks and Beyonce are top on her list. She wants to live in a world of fashion and glamour, football was the farthest thing from her mind.
When her mom, played by a very toned down Tasha Smith (“Why Did I Get Married?”), needs to work longer hours, she turns to her brother-in-law Curtis, to help look out for his niece. Reluctantly, he agrees to the job of meeting Jasmine after school. In the beginning, their relationship could be described as rocky. They have nothing in common even though her father is Curtis’ brother. Jasmine longs for the day when her father returns and re-joins their family. In her mind Curtis is no substitute.
One fateful day, Curtis asks Jasmine to toss him a football that happened to land at her feet while she was reading one of her teen fashion magazines. It is then and there that he discovers Jasmine has skills, the kind of skills he possessed when he was a star athlete in high school. And, he is determined to help her become the star athlete she was meant to be.
From the time Jasmine begins to train, the movie has you in this amazing grip of curiosity, excitement, and fun. When you find yourself cheering or applauding, you remind yourself…hey, this is just a movie. But because it’s based on a true story, it makes the film all that more wonderful and real.
All the characters in the film are rich and fully developed. Jill Marie Jones (“Girlfriends”) is outstanding as the shy, young teacher who’s got her eye on Curtis. Their eventual courtship is sweet and comes across very honest. This is a great vehicle for Jones because we get to see her range, and it breaks her out of the over-pampered, snooty character she’s played so well.
Hats off to Ice Cube who has come a long way in his screen performances; his warmth and strength of character comes across very well on screen. As Uncle Curtis, he’s extremely believable. If he’s attempting to make family movies a part of his versatile film portfolio, he’s succeeding.
“The Longshots” is a daddy/daughter movie, a mommy/daughter movie, and a great family and date movie all rolled into one. Plus it is a must have for your video library.