May 24, 2010

MOVIES: Just Wright (Sanaa Hamri, 2010)

At a time when the dominant tone in American comedy is that of embarrassment and humiliation, it's a refreshing surprise to see a romantic comedy in which nobody gets punched, nobody trips over anything, and nobody falls face first into a lake or a mud puddle or a pile of pig shit. Just Wright is a simple, low-key story about two nice people falling in love.

Queen Latifah stars as Leslie, a physical therapist who meets Scott McKnight (Common) at a gas station one night. Scott is the star player for the New Jersey Nets. (I am told by friends who are more into sports than I am that the notion of the Nets as a playoff-caliber team is the movie's funniest joke.) Scott only has eyes for Leslie's gold-digging friend, Morgan (a nice comic turn from Paula Patton). But when Scott suffers a career-threatening injury and needs a good physical therapist...well, you can see where this is going.

And it's true that Just Wright isn't a particularly novel or surprisingly movie, but Latifah is so extraordinarily likable that she easily carries you through the movie's weaker moments. Common isn't up to her level as an actor (and he's a good six or seven inches too short to be convincing as an NBA star), but this is a smart choice of role for a rapper making the transition to acting; he's not asked to do much heavy dramatic lifting, he can largely coast on his innate charm, and he's surrounded by a supporting cast (including Pam Grier, Phylicia Rashad, and James Pickens Jr.) who know how to make him look good.

Just Wright isn't an important movie, and it's not going to make anyone's top ten list at the end of the year, but it's a pleasantly understated and well crafted piece of entertainment, and I had fun watching it.

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