Fred Durst… really? That was my initial reaction after learning from my press notes that the former Limp Bizkit frontman had directed The Longshots (And yes, we’re talking about the same guy who sang the lyrics, “keep rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ rollin'”). The new knowledge was surprising but I didn’t let it cloud my judgment. Besides, with a cast of Ice Cube and Keke Palmer, it had to have something to it, right?
The Longshots opens up with Palmer as Jasmine Plummer; a nose-in-the-book character who is eventually introduced to the game of football by her feelin’-sorry-for-himself Uncle Fred (Ice Cube). Jasmine and Fred are forced into each other’s company by Plummer’s mother (Tasha Smith) in her desperate attempt to find a babysitter. Although he finds very little in common with his reluctant, smart-mouth niece, Fred soon learns of her ability to throw a football. Inspired by her talent, he trains Jasmine, and she eventually tries out for the middle school football team. During the process he also transforms his hobo ways by getting a change of clothes and asking Jasmine’s teacher (Jill Marie Jones) on a date.
While some parts of the story line have been exhausted several times over, one can’t ignore the transformation that ensues when a town decides to pull together for the sake of its youth and… sports. Even better is the encouragement it guarantees for young women who always wanted to try out for a “boy’s sport.” Palmer’s performance reflects the spirit and determination of Jasmine Plummer as she faces the prejudice of both the coach and team in her initial attempts to play the game.
And what about Ice Cube? Apart from a few misplaced comedic scenes and a cliched role, Cube did his job with passion and skill. I can’t, however, say the same for Jones and Smith. Though their characters were minor, it was still prevalent that those roles did not suit two strong-headed women who once lead the nation with personalities such as Toni Childs and Angela from Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?, respectively. A pre-teen audience of girls seems to fit the movie’s aim but with Smith and Jones lacking in their roles, it was left to Palmer to carry out most of the influence.
So Fred Durst, I can’t say I’ll be surprised the next time I see your name alongside “director,” but I will at least hope that all the cliches and not so subtle foreshadowing will be replaced by the realness and substance a movie based on a true story would call for.