Just Wright

Release Date: May 14, 2010

They are totally letting their smile be their umbrella.

On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
39/123 David Mumpower One of the most surprising developments of 2010 was that Queen Latifah and Common had great onscreen chemistry.
171/190 Max Braden Unlike She's Out of My League, this is just another formulaic romance. Which is too bad because I really like Queen Latifah.

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In the tradition of What Lies Beneath, Maid in Manhattan and Shanghai Knights, the homonym movie title genre gets another entry in May 2010 with the release of Just Wright. The latest romantic comedy from Fox Searchlight is set in the world of the NBA and stars Oscar nominee Dana Owens and Grammy-winning Lonnie Rashied Lynn, Jr. Who are these people and why have they been given starring roles in a movie? They are both better known by more established and recognizable stage names: Queen Latifah and Common (respectively).

The film is a variation on the ol’ “regular girl falls for hot guy and must make him see that she’s better for him than her hot friend” or The Truth About Cats and Dogs set in the world of basketball and not radio. Such a comparison may be an unfair oversimplification because both the leads are likable and the trailers provide some decent laughs and are good showcase of what audiences can expect. The plot revolves around a physical therapist and huge New Jersey Nets fan, which is proof this is fiction, named Leslie Wright (Queen Latifah) being hired to rehab injured NBA star Scott McKnight (Common) and begins to fall in love with him. During the course of her unreciprocated courtship, Wright has to watch as her gold-digging friend Morgan (Paula Patton) has her sights set on becoming a NBA trophy wife with McKnight as her mark.

Six years ago, Just Wright was originally a film in the Disney pipeline with Queen Latifah attached but the product never made much progress toward actual production. In 2004, it was a very logical vehicle to star Latifah, who not only was fresh off her Supporting Actress Oscar nod for Chicago about a year earlier, but she had just shared starring duties with Steve Martin in Bringing Down the House, which was released by Disney-owned Touchstone Pictures. That comedy brought home nearly $100 million over its budget and Queen Latifah was thrust into the movie star seat.

Unfortunately, as Just Wright sat in a drawer, the rapper-turned actor churned out three films back-to-back-to-back (2004’s Taxi, 2005’s Beauty Shop, and 2006’s Last Holiday) that proved to be the very definition of consistency, with each earning no less than $36 million but not more than $39 million. Disney must have gotten gun shy about this one being a similar middling performer and put it in turnaround. With Queen Latifah still attached, Just Wright found a new home at Fox Searchlight, which is not historically known for this romance comedy but rather arthouse fare. To Ms. Owens’ credit, audiences seem to have a good will toward her and her co-star and love interest in this film, Common, has logged some very solid and notable supporting work in films like American Gangster and Smokin’ Aces, over the last few years. For film that will be dependent upon the audience believing this guy is an NBA player, Common seems capable of convincingly pulling this off, unlike Morris Chestnut in Like Mike.

Helping round out the cast is Paula Patton as Leslie’s friend and rival, who may be more well-known for being married to singer Robin Thicke, and a pair of acting veterans - Pam Grier and Phylicia Rashad. As Latifah’s and Common’s mothers, respectively, these ladies add a nice air of nostalgia to the film and depending upon how much screen time they get, they could be scene-stealers, a la Betty White in last year’s The Proposal. Fittingly, at the helm of Just Wright is established video director Sanaa Hamri, who most notably was responsible for directing music videos for Prince and Mariah Carey. This film is only the second major film directing gig for Hamri after 2008’s The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 but it is unlikely that Just Wright would require a seasoned director to handle it.

One final note: Given the film’s setting in the world of professional basketball, the use of real NBA team names, uniforms and even cameos from players will lend more believability to the movie. Audiences will not be subjected to the silly fictionalization of teams like in Any Given Sunday, which can prove to be a distraction, at least to this potential audience member. (Daron Aldridge/BOP)

Vital statistics for Just Wright
Distributor Fox Searchlight Pictures
Rating PG
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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