Skip to content

Review: White Men Can’t Jump (Disney+)

May 18, 2023

By John Corrado

★★ (out of 4)

A remake of Ron Shelton’s 1992 comedy of the same name that starred Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes, White Men Can’t Jump is an updated version of the story that strips away a lot of the original’s grit and personality.

Like the original, the film is set in Los Angeles around the basketball courts of Venice Beach. The main character is Kamal Allen (Sinqua Walls), a former college basketball star who had his career cut short, and is now trying to reclaim his former glory.

When Kamal is hustled by Jeremy (rapper Jack Harlow in his acting debut), a white dude who had to give up his own playing career and now makes money by challenging guys to pickup games and hiding the fact that he can really dunk, the two decide to team up on the court. The story finds them bumping up against each other while trying to revitalize their professional careers.

There are the obligatory subplots, with Kamal’s girlfriend Imani (Teyana Taylor) trying to save up enough money to open her own hair salon. Jeremy’s girlfriend Tatiana (Laura Harrier) also wants to advance her career as a dance choreographer, but she is stuck supporting him as his business ventures don’t pan out. The supporting cast includes the late Lance Reddick in one of his final roles as Kamal’s father, and the court side tag team of Vince Staples and Myles Bullock who do get in some mildly amusing one-liners

The biggest difference between the two versions of White Men Can’t Jump is that the remake adds more backstories to the characters and injects a dose of sentimentality into the story, while removing some of the darker aspects of the ‘92 version. The remake attempts to be more “progressive” by cleaning up some of the trash talking and grittier elements of the original, but this ironically only makes the film feel less relevant. Harlow also lacks Harrelson’s charismatic screen presence and natural charm, and it’s hard for anyone to match the firebrand energy that Snipes brought to the original.

While it’s directed by Calmatic, a commercial and music video director who made his feature debut with the House Party remake released earlier this year, White Men Can’t Jump more closely bears the stamp of its co-writer and producer Kenya Barris, who created the sitcom Black-ish and its spinoffs. The film has a sitcomish feel to it, with its made-for-streaming sheen and jokes about modern race relations that we can hear coming from a mile away, and not much in the way of fresh new insights.

The style of humour and mixed race buddy comedy elements also hue closely to Barris’ own directorial debut You People (which was just released on Netflix in January). This is all to say that White Men Can’t Jump feels somewhat stale and derivative, and not just of the 1992 film that preceded it. This is a mostly toothless and almost instantly forgettable remake that struggles to really get off the ground.

(L-R): Jack Harlow as Jeremy and Sinqua Walls as Kamal in 20th Century Studios’ WHITE MEN CAN’T JUMP, exclusively on Hulu. Photo by Parrish Lewis. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

White Men Can’t Jump will be available to stream exclusively on Disney+ in Canada as of May 19th.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: