"White Men Can't Jump" (2023) Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
Perhaps one of the most hated things in the cinematic landscape today is unnecessary remakes, and Calmatic's remake of the 1992 classic, "White Men Can't Jump" is a perfect example of that. This 2023 film shoots for the stars, but falls short on nearly every possible level.
Unlike the first movie, this film revolves around the characters Jeremy (Jack Harlow) and Kamal (Sinqua Walls), who meet in the same circumstances as Woody Harrelson's and Wesley Snipes' characters meet in the original. Besides that, there is nothing else that really ties this film to the original. This could be considered a good thing as remakes shouldn't necessarily follow the classic film they are based upon, but this seems like it went a little too far to call itself a remake.
After realizing he got hustled by the white basketball player who suffers from two torn ACLs, Lamar decides to team up with Jeremy and hustle as many people as they can, with plans to play in a tournament to win $500,000 to change their lives for the better; Jeremy wants to pay to have his ACLs fixed while Lamar wants to provide a better life for his family.
I think one of the best things about the original is the characters, especially Billy and Sidney. They made the film great and memorable for so many people throughout the years. This is the feeling this new movie needed to recreate, and I think they ultimately fail at that. Lamar is an enjoyable character, perhaps the best character in the entire movie. However, he is outweighed by Harlow's Jeremy, who is annoying and obnoxious. There is a tiny part of me that wanted him to succeed in watching this movie, but I honestly didn't care too much.
The original movie tackled themes like racism and money, but they did it respectfully. Sidney and Billy learned to respect each other, looking past race and more towards who they are as people. In this movie however, Jeremy is one of those characters who tries too hard to be black even though he is born in a white man's body. He thinks he understands their culture and how they think, when he really doesn't. I'm not sure if the writers here tried to create this for comedic effect, but it ultimately just plays as cringey and annoying, especially casting Harlow as the lead in this film.
While one of my complaints in the original is it leans too far into a more depressing and downer mood, I respect the filmmakers for taking this path. This movie, on the other hand, is just way too predictable and sugar-coated by Hollywood. There is nothing unique about what is made here, and it is the same romanticized films we have seen for a while now. The stakes aren't really huge here, so it makes me wonder why a film like this was even conceived.
I think that is the big question here. Why was this film made? I can answer that question - purely for money. There is no heart or soul present in this film at all, and just serves as an easy cash-grab for the studio. Is this an enjoyable film to watch with friends while eating pizza and hanging out? Sure, I don't see why not. But, I also don't see why you wouldn't just turn on the original, which is an entirely better film than this.
There are good standout moments that will make the viewer sort of forget about all of its flaws at the time, but remind them when something ridiculous happens once again. There are also some funny moments, which prevents me from giving this film a lower score. But, these are few and far between, and I think the filmmakers would have benefited greatly by adding in the funny and lighthearted characters more throughout the plot.
Is this the worst remake I've ever seen? No, it's really not. However, that doesn't stop it from being a generally bad movie that the studio could cash in on at the moment. There was no need or purpose to recreate the iconic movie from the '90s, but they still tried anyways. I wouldn't even say kudos to the filmmakers for trying, and rather to make something more original that would be a lot better than what they crafted here.