Chemistry vs. predictability
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, May 14, 2010
Fifteen minutes into "Just Wright," a romantic comedy about a 35-year-old perpetually single gal named Leslie Wright (Queen Latifah), the title character asks, "When am I going to meet that one amazing guy who thinks I'm the one woman he can't live without?"
Give it five minutes.
That's about how long it takes before One Amazing Guy, in the person of New Jersey Nets basketball star Scott McKnight (rapper-actor Common), shows up. He's charming, handsome, talented and rich, not to mention a perfect gentleman when he and Leslie meet cute at the gas pump. He's in a new car and can't figure out how to open his tank. Leslie, a tomboyish physical therapist, helps him out, in the process wangling an invitation to a party at his house for Leslie and her -- naturally -- much prettier god sister, Morgan (Paula Patton).
Of course, it's going to take Scott the rest of the movie to realize he can't live without Leslie. For the rest of us, it shouldn't be anywhere near that long.
In order for this epiphany to occur, however, he's first going to have to fall in love with Morgan, a gold digger so bald-faced she speaks of "bagging" rich men, referring to seduction as her "job." Again, only Scott is oblivious to these red flags. Even his mother (Phylicia Rashad) warns him. But he's a grown man, and he's entitled -- nay, required, according to the laws of Hollywood -- to make his own mistakes.
The second step in the process occurs when he seriously injures his knee. With Scott's career -- and paycheck -- now in jeopardy, Morgan dumps him.
And that's where Leslie steps back in. "We've got up to eight weeks," she tells him, offering to whip him back into shape in time for the playoffs. "Bet you're going to hate me before I get through with you."
Uh, I wouldn't take that bet.
For a movie that's about pro sports -- it's half jock nail-biter and half love story -- "Just Wright" telegraphs its every move. There are simply no surprises.
Except one, and it's a pleasant one. Latifah and Common create something that's all too rare in contemporary romantic comedies, and that's the sense that their characters actually, you know, like each other. The guy's no great thespian (except in comparison to the numerous real players and coaches in the film, all of whom give new meaning to the term wooden). Still, he and his co-star have an on-screen connection that feels easy and unforced, and very, very real.
In this overly choreographed movie, their chemistry is a reason to stand up and cheer.
Contains brief vulgarity and a scene of sensuality.