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WEINSTEIN COMPANY

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Fred Durst
Cast:
Ice Cube, Keke Palmer, Tasha Smith, Jill Marie Jones, Dash Mihok, Matt Craven, Glenn Plummer, Garrett Morris
Writing Credits:
Nick Santora

Tagline:
The New Coach Has A Secret Weapon.

Synopsis:
A fun, inspirational and heartwarming story of the first and only girl quarterback in Pop Warner football history and her uncle's exciting journey to make a team of misfits kids into a Pop Warner powerhouse.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$3.041 million on 2089 screens.
Domestic Gross
$11.508 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16X9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 12/2/2008

Bonus:
• Deleted Scenes 13 19:23
• “Jasmine Plummer: The Real Longshot” Featurette
• “Making The Longshots” Featurette
• “A Conversation with Ice Cube” Featurette
• “A Conversation with Fred Durst” Featurette
• Theatrical Trailer
• Previews


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RELATED REVIEWS


The Longshots (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 3, 2008)

Fred Durst earned fame as the singer with Limp Bizkit, but he didn’t merit attention solely due to his music. In fact, Durst eventually became just as well known for his profane battles with other musicians and for his Internet sex tape.

Ice Cube came to the public attention as a member of seminal rap group NWA. They essentially launched “gangster rap” and with songs like “F**k Tha Police”, they became infamous. The scowling Cube seemed like the poster child for the Angry Black Man.

So who better than Durst and Cube to come together to make 2008’s The Longshots, an inspirational family drama? Seriously, if anyone said 10 years ago that these guys would make this film, it’d have sounded like a Saturday Night Live parody.

But it’s real! Durst directs The Longshots, a flick in which Cube plays aimless and unemployed Curtis Plummer, a slacker who wants nothing more than to escape from his depressed hometown of Minden, Illinois. His brother’s ex-wife Claire (Tasha Smith) badgers Curtis to help look after his young teen niece Jasmine (Keke Palmer). Jasmine has her own problems. An isolated introvert, she thinks everyone at school hates her, and she doesn’t know how to break out of her shell.

Curtis discovers that Jasmine has a hidden talent. When he tosses around a football, she returns it to him and demonstrates a powerful throwing arm. He sees her potential and tries to get her into football. Initially Jasmine resists Curtis’ pleas, but eventually she agrees to play and she develops into a talented quarterback. From there she joins the local Pop Warner team. The film follows her triumphs and travails, and we also see how her efforts affect the team and the town.

When I started this DVD, I was surprised to see that it came from Dimension Films. I’d assumed it was a Disney movie, as this sort of inspirational sports tale has the Mouse’s paw-prints all over it. Heck, I started to think that the law required filmmakers to go to Disney if they wanted to create a flick like this!

The realization that Disney didn’t back The Longshots was the first and only surprise I encountered. At no point do the story, it characters or situations remotely veer outside of the realm of the predictable. Okay, that’s not totally true; the movie’s ending comes as a mild surprise. But not a big one, so don’t expect to find anything other than the tried ‘n’ true from Longshots.

And that goes for almost all aspects of the production. As a director, Durst certainly doesn’t embarrass himself, but he also fails to make a film that seems even remotely distinctive. Perhaps that’s inevitable, as the inspirational sports story genre has been beaten to death over the decades; there’s only so many ways one can reinvent that particular wheel. Nonetheless, I’d have liked to see something a little more inventive and creative here; this feels like a robot directed it.

Though I suspect a droid might bring a better sense of storytelling. Longshots is all over the place and rarely maintains a good sense of purpose and consistency. For example, one minute Jasmine treats both Curtis and football with disdain, but then she suddenly – and mysteriously – warms to both. I wondered if a reel was missing, a the change in attitude doesn’t make sense.

In an unfortunate turn, Longshots partially loses track of its main characters during its third act. The story becomes more concerned with the football team and its impact on the town. Perhaps this was necessary to flesh out the movie to feature length, but it seems like a bad choice to me. We really only care about Jasmine and Curtis; all other issues are superfluous and distracting. The secondary plots and characters should’ve remained in the background, but they come to the fore too heavily.

I’d probably not mind some of these concerns were it not for the presence of one of the worst film scores I’ve ever heard. A good score bolsters the material but doesn’t call attention to itself. Unfortunately, Teddy Castellucci’s work always makes us aware of its manipulative goals, partially because the music is so obvious and cloying – and omnipresent. Too many scenes feature syrupy score when they should speak for themselves. It doesn’t help that the music feels like it was stolen from someone’s “Best of the Inspirational Movie Scores” CD; there’s not a remotely creative or original musical moment on display, and it really takes away from the tale.

On the positive side, the two lead actors do well in their parts. Palmer displays a good natural presence and manages to pull off Jasmine’s various sides. She also meshes well with Cube, who shows his own skills well. He never mugs to the camera or plays down to the material. Instead, Cube maintains a nice sense of integrity; as sappy and silly as things become, you always get the impression he actually believes what he says. Cube brings a good sense of realism to an often cartoony film.

But he and Palmer can’t save it. Oh, The Longshots provides modest entertainment; it’s hard not to get at least a little caught up in this sort of underdog story. Unfortunately, the movie simply fails to deliver anything more than generic charms.


The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus C

The Longshots appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie came with a mediocre transfer.

Some of the problems connected to sharpness. Though a lot of the flick seemed accurate and concise, a few shots looked soft and ill-defined. Edge enhancement affected a few of these concerns, as I noticed haloes during much of the film. I witnessed no jagged edges or shimmering, and source flaws were absent. However, the movie often seemed rather grainy, and compression artifacts gave some scenes

Don’t expect vivid hues from Longshots. The flick used an earthy, somewhat sepia look that seemed logical for the depressed town of Minden, though I thought the film poured on the dinginess too heavily. Even when the flick moved to Miami, everything remained brown. The colors were fine within the parameters, I guess, but they seemed pretty uninspiring.

Blacks appeared dark and tight, but shadows were a bit dense. Some low-light shots seemed a little more opaque than I’d like. With the softness, compression issues and flat colors, this was a lackluster presentation.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Longshots remained low-key. Speech dominated, and not much else cropped up along the way. Music did show nice stereo imaging, and environmental material added a little life to the proceedings. Though the football games should’ve brought out some pizzazz, they didn’t. Sure, they opened things up a bit, but the track stayed pretty restrained and bland.

Audio quality satisfied to a reasonable degree. A few lines showed light edginess, but most of the dialogue was natural and concise. Music sounded full and warm, while effects seemed acceptably accurate. I thought that this was good enough for a “C+“.

A few extras fill out the set. 13 Deleted Scenes run a total of 19 minutes, 23 seconds. Most of these provide fairly redundant bits of exposition; they reinforce character and story elements we essentially already know. We do get a new subplot between Curtis and the town hustler, and we also see some parental pressure to bench Jasmine. A coda shows Jasmine’s impact on the team as well. Those are the most interesting tidbits, though none of them prove particularly memorable.

Four featurettes follow. For some info on the facts behind the film, we go to Jasmine Plummer: The Real Longshot. In this six-minute and 45-second piece, we hear from direcir Fred Durst, actors Ice Cube and Keke Palmer, and real-life character inspirations Fred Johnson and Jasmine Plummer. We get some basics about Plummer’s story in this quick piece. It’s too short to provide real depth, unfortunately, and it’s too bad we don’t see any footage of Jasmine on the field. Still, it’s cool to meet the real-life personalities behind the flick’s two main characters.

For the eight-minute and six-second Making The Longshots, we hear from Palmer, Cube, and actors Tasha Smith, Dash Mihok, Matt Craven, and Miles Chandler. The show looks at cast and performances, and the work of director Durst. This is a fairly generic piece that doesn’t bring much to the table.

The lead actor comes to the fore in A Conversation with Ice Cube. It runs five minutes, 30 seconds and features Cube’s comments about his involvement in the project, his football background, working with cast and crew, and locations. A few decent notes emerge, but the piece doesn’t shed a whole lot of light on anything.

Finally, we get A Conversation with Fred Durst. The piece lasts seven minutes, 26 seconds, as the director discusses the story and characters, working with Cube and other actors, his approach to the real-life subject of the tale, the football elements and various challenges. Once again, we find a fairly bland chat here. I’d have liked a little more insight into Durst’s efforts as a new director, but he keeps things unmemorable.

The DVD opens with a few ads. We get Previews for the Hole in the Wall Camps, The Great Debaters, and The Nanny Diaries. The disc also includes the film’s theatrical trailer.

On paper, The Longshots looks like it’ll be cloying and predictable – and that’s how it plays out on the screen, as well. Its actors do their best to elevate the material, but pedestrian directing, inconsistent storytelling and a sappy score make this movie mediocre at best. The DVD also seems unexceptional; it provides average picture and sound along with a few minor extras. There are better inspirational sports films out there, so I’d recommend you skip The Longshots.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5 Stars Number of Votes: 6
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