Movie News & Reviews

Bet on ‘Longshots' for a sweet payoff

They have passed into middle age, the growling rocker and the scowling rapper.

Director Fred Durst – Gastonia native Fred Durst, as we like to call him – turned 38 on Wednesday and has let the band Limp Bizkit slip into limbo for a while. Ice Cube, who turned 39 in June, has long since been softened into a huggable character in family-friendly dramas. Both have multiple school-age kids, and “The Longshots” is their way of collaborating on a heart-warming movie those kids might like to see.

It's loosely based on the story of Jasmine Plummer, an 11-year-old quarterback who led the Junior Pee Wee league Harvey Colts (of Harvey, Ill.) into the national Pop Warner football tournament in Florida five years ago – which made her the first girl to play quarterback in that tournament's 56-year history.

In the movie version, Jasmine is bigger, stronger and older. (She's played by Keke Palmer of “Akeelah and the Bee,” who'll turn 15 Tuesday.) The movie's Jasmine lives in the fictional town of Minden, Ill.; the name was probably changed because the movie was shot in Minden, La., where the filmmakers benefitted from big tax rebates.

Yet the message is the same: Girls should pursue their dreams, however improbable they seem, and people (or whole towns) suffering financial setbacks should concentrate on what they have to offer before worrying about what they don't have.

The film's a double story of reclamation. Jasmine, who longs for her wayward and neglectful father to come back, learns to let him go and stand up for herself. Her uncle Curtis (Ice Cube), an unemployed plant worker, finds self-worth by coaching her team to a semblance of the football glory he knew before getting injured in high school.

Durst and writer Nick Santora, who's making his feature film debut, don't break new emotional ground or take risks. At the same time, they don't push too hard to solve characters' problems: No economic miracle reclaims Minden, and Jasmine's single mom (Tasha Smith) doesn't meet the man of her dreams.

We're left with an unforced, sweet-natured story about people who find small ways to touch others and rediscover the good in themselves. The movie's other theme – that black and white townspeople must pull together – emerges subtly, without a single mention of race. To deliver such ideas simply and honestly is no small feat.

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