White Men Can't Jump

White Men Can’t Jump is a master class in how not to remake a beloved movie. I’m not sure the people who made it have even seen Ron Shelton’s 1992 sports comedy. The material has been changed so dramatically that it’s almost like they read a Wikipedia entry on the film and then wrote a screenplay based on it. This is the second effort this year from the director who calls himself “Calmatic,” following January’s House Party reboot. That picture wasn’t very good either, but it looks like Citizen Kane in comparison.

Rapper Jack Harlow takes over for Woody Harrelson, which is the first problem. Aside from the fact that he clearly can’t act, Harlow has none of Harrelson’s onscreen charisma or comedic timing. He’s Jeremy, a basketball hustler who shows up at street games, pretends to be a random goofy white guy, then whups other players after a bet has been made. Jeremy pulls this act on Kamal (Sinqua Walls, in for Wesley Snipes), a guy who blew his chance at hoops stardom a long time ago and is still bitter about it. They team up to enter a basketball tournament but must pull off a handful of cons in order to earn the entry fee.

The original White Men Can’t Jump isn’t really about basketball as much as it is about gambling. Harrelson’s character, Billy Hoyle, is in debt to mobsters, which is why he hustles. His girlfriend leaves him for the first time after he loses a foolish bet to Snipes’s character, Sidney Deane, then again after he risks a large sum of money on a game he and Sidney are set to play against two streetball legends. He simply can’t stop risking his cash. The new version scraps all that. Instead, it’s just about whether Jeremy and Kamal can win the big game. All the nuance and subtext has been ripped out. Without the gambling theme, the movie becomes a hollow buddy picture where you know everything that’s going to happen long before it does.

Also ripped out is the importance of women. In the ’92 movie, Rosie Perez plays Billy’s frustrated girlfriend Gloria, who gets on Jeopardy! and wins $14,000. Sure, the subplot is a little goofy, but it makes Perez an integral part of the story. Now, Jeremy has a girlfriend named Tatiana (Laura Harrier) who wants to be a dancer, yet she has no real function other than as window dressing and to be a nag. Kamal’s partner Imani (Teyana Taylor) doesn't fare any better. Not a great look.

Aside from a pared-down plot and Harlow/Walls lacking the presence of Harrelson/Snipes, White Men Can’t Jump has a dearth of laughs. The screenplay by Kenya Barris and Doug Hall is missing the sarcastic wit of Shelton’s. In its place are lame jokes about colonics and singer Ed Sheeran. Changing the story might have worked better with more appealing leads and sharper dialogue. Instead, we get flat actors delivering flat dialogue. These two guys have zero comic chemistry together. Seeing them flounder on the screen is painful.

Despite a relatively brief 101-minute running time, White Men Can’t Jump still drags horribly. Nothing in the movie is entertaining. There is no need for it to exist, especially since the far superior original is still around to be watched. This isn’t just one of 2023’s worst pictures, it’s one of the worst remakes ever produced.

out of four

White Men Can't Jump is rated R for pervasive language and some drug material. The running time is 1 hour and 41 minutes.