Underdog sports films have been around forever. They are really a subset of the inspirational sports film formula. The only difference between the two movie plot formulas is underdog sports films usually only focus a single individual overcoming adversity, while inspirational sports films are usually centered on a team. Either way, though, these kinds of films are all based on true stories, they are supposed to inspire people, but most importantly they all get people to movie theaters to watch them. So when you hear that Fred Durst (a.k.a. lead singer of Limp Bizkit) is directing an underdog sports film like The Longshots, you probably don’t have high hopes for it. But then when you hear that Ice Cube and Keke Palmer (Akeelah and the Bee) are going to star in it, you might think that The Longshots might have a shot at being better than you might expect.
In The Longshots, the depressed Midwestern town of Minden is the setting. Living there is young Jasmine (Keke Palmer), who is having difficulty fitting in at school. She is constantly being hounded by the popular kids and struggling with the absence of her biological father. To help out, Jasmine’s shiftless Uncle Curtis (Ice Cube) is brought in, and while bored with the young girl’s fascination with fashion, he spots a terrific throwing arm underneath all her melancholy. Encouraging Jasmine to perfect her football skills, Curtis gets her on the local Pop Warner team, where she’s met with immediate disapproval. However, once her arm starts producing wins, Jasmine finds herself a success, and provides Minden a new, long overdue shot of hope.
The story of this film is a pretty basic. It’s inspired by a true story, but a girl playing football is not a new subject for a movie. Back in the 1980s, a young Helen Hunt starred in Quarterback Princess. The Longshots is really the same film with just different people in the starring roles. This film is predictable from beginning to end, but there are some bright spots. First, there is a good message for young kids, especially girls. Second, at least this film doesn’t resort to bathroom humor to get laughs. That doesn’t mean this film is funny, because it’s not, but at least it doesn’t attempt to get cheap laughs.
What really helps this film be watchable is the chemistry between Ice Cube and Keke Palmer. Unfortunately, Cube’s character doesn’t allow him to really bust loose and make this film better, but he does his best with what he is given. Palmer is definitely charming and likable, and someone you can root for. That is a always good. But other than that, the characters and cast are nothing special. This film might have been based on a true story, but the writers decided to not add in the most interesting part of this story, which is the reaction of the moms in the city as they watched this girl play football. They actually became inspired by this in real life, but in the film they decide to just throw in a typical sports movie cliche of an absentee father who returns once their child steps into the spotlight.
This being is first directorial effort to see light of day on the big screen, Fred Durst doesn’t take any chances here. That doesn’t help a film that has a generic story to begin with that sticks closely to its underdog sports formula. Ice Cube and Keke Palmer have enough chemistry to keep things moving, though, and there is a good message for kids. So for a family movie, this is a good one for the tweener crowd and one they will probably love. However for adults, The Longshots feels all too familiar. You won’t be surprised by anything you see during this film, but at least it’s watchable and somewhat entertaining thanks to a strong cast at the top.
The video is presented in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode at the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen color ratio, which is enhanced for 16:9 TVs of course. The video transfer is good. The colors are not as vibrant as they could have been, but they are presented as they were intended in the film. No noticable graininess or anything. No major problems at all.
The audio included is available in either English TrueHD 5.1 sound or English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound. There are subtitles available in English and Spanish as well. No majors problems here either, but the audio is really only average for a Blu-ray DVD.
There are no Blu-ray exclusive features for this film.
Found on Standard Edition As Well…
“Making The Longshots” Featurette –
This run 8 minutes and it’s your standard “making-of” featurette. There are short interviews with Keke Parker, Ice Cube, Tasha Smith and other members of the cast and crew. Not really “must-watch” or anything.
“A Conversation with Ice Cube” Interview –
This runs 5 minutes and it’s an interview with Ice Cube about why he wanted to star in this film, etc. Fairly interesting, but you get some of this information in the other extras as well.
“A Conversation with Director Fred Durst” Interview –
This run 7 minutes and it’s more of the same of above, except we hear Durst’s comments. Also, somewhat intriguing to hear but also found
“Jasmine Plummer: The Real Longshot” Featurette –
This runs 7 minutes and you get to see the real Jasmine Plummer, alongside her uncle, discuss the film and the true story behind it. Probably the best extra of them all.
Deleted Scenes –
There is 20 minutes worth of scenes that didn’t make the final cut of the filn. Slightly worth a watch, but don’t go out of your way to see them or anything. They just add more depth to certain characters.
Fans of the Ice Cube probably won’t enjoy this as much as they think, since his character really limits his talents here. Still he and Keke Palmer have good chemistry together, so they are worth watching. There is a good message in The Longshots, and it doesn’t resort to “cheap laughs” like other “family” films. So it’s at least worth a rental for families. Adults without a family can really skip this all together, since there is nothing new to see here. But if you like this film genre, you will more than likely be entertained. Just don’t expect much, and you won’t be disappointed.
As for the difference between this Blu-ray version and the standard definition version, there is really none. There are no exclusive Blu-ray extras. The audio and video quality is only slightly improved, if at all, so there is no need to upgrade to Blu-ray. Stick to the standard definition DVD, if you must own this film.
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents The Longshots. Directed by Fred Durst. Starring Ice Cube, Tasha Smith, Keke Palmer, Jill Marie Jones, and Earthquake. Written by Nick Santora. Running time: 95 minutes. Rated PG. Released on DVD: December 2, 2008.
Available at Amazon.com
Tags: Ice Cube, Walt Disney