Review by Adam Donato
Jack Harlow is having himself a little moment in the music industry as of late. What a time it is to capitalize on this fame with some exposure in other entertainment industries. Harlow is clearly a basketball fan, even having a song named after Miami Heat star Tyler Herro. Thanks to Disney buying Fox and all their intellectual properties included, Harlow was able to remake nineties sports classic White Men Can’t Jump. While the original sported big name actors like Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes, Harlow stands out next to Sinqua Walls in terms of name brand recognition. Over thirty years after the original, does this remake justify its own existence?
This remake is rated R just like the original. Not to give Disney credit, but one wouldn’t put it past them to water this story down to a PG-13 rating to get more eyes on their content. That being said, White Men Can’t Jump loses all of the balls the original movie stands out for. Indoor basketball courts are much more accessible today, but it takes away from the grit of the original. Isn’t it a large part of the story that these two men are struggling with money? This update just makes the story that much less relatable. Not to mention, the ending is softened up Without spoiling anything, the original movie impresses by not letting our protagonists easily off the hook. Here, we take the easy way out for a more standard feel good movie. It’s just sad to see a movie remade to be “safer."
Harlow’s big difference here compared to the same character Harrelson plays in the original is his focus on passivity in conflict. His character is also a big-talking hustler, but his whole goal seems to be not only stealing their money, but pissing them off in the process. He’s also a trainer who is constantly pushing his weird health supplements. His relationship with Laura Harrier of Spider-Man: Homecoming fame seems to be an afterthought, whereas the original goes out of its way to flesh that relationship out. Still, Harlow is cool enough and looks the part of a hooper. It’s a far cry from what Harrelson brought us, but it's clear the goal wasn’t to elevate the original, but to inflate the ego of a famous musician.
It’s interesting the direction they go with Walls's character. Not much of his backstory is explored in the original, but here, it’s the focus from the jump. To any basketball fan in the last decade, it’s clear they’re trying to draw comparisons to LaVar Ball — an overbearing basketball dad, who seems to enjoy the media attention just a bit too much and overdoes it with unwavering confidence in his son’s ability. Walls’s character lost his serious basketball opportunity due to his inability to keep composure when goaded. This aspect of his personality conflicts with Harlow’s character nicely. However, their arguments about race feel nowhere near as genuine as the original and therefore are hollow.
The rap on White Men Can’t Jump is similar to most high profile remakes. It’s completely unnecessary and does nothing to improve upon the original. It’s extremely disappointing to fail to adequately address the racial discussions at the heart of this story seeing as racism is very topical these days. This performance may not garner Harlow any future opportunities in acting, but may add to his street cred and Spotify subscribers. No need to check this one out, but definitely check out the original if you haven’t seen it.
White Men Can't Jump streams on Hulu beginning May 18.