The term "is nothing sacred anymore" is uttered so frequently, it could be the tagline for Hollywood. For every new announcement of a feature film remake, a wave of disenchanted voices respond, generally bemoaning the industry's lack of originality. So, to avoid repetition, let's assume the undercurrent of this article is general malaise at the tendency to recycle old ideas — that's a given.
White Men Can't Jump is the most recent cinematic clone to be announced. Kenya Barris — the creator of ABC's highly-respected, Golden Globe winning TV comedy Black-ish — is joining forces with NBA player Blake Griffin, and professional American footballer Ryan Kalil, to breathe life into the rubber bladder of the 1992 original.
The trouble is (this is the point where the undercurrent becomes a tsunami), White Men Can't Jump was such a thrilling, quick-witted ride thanks to the unique, unrepeatable chemistry of Sidney Deane (#WesleySnipes) and Billy Hoyle (#WoodyHarrelson), with their relationship serving as the nucleus of the story. Consequently, it's hard to imagine a remake bettering the points total. Or matching it.
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'White Men Can't Jump': A Tale Of Two Hustlers
While focusing on those two leads as basketball hustlers who join together after initially pitting themselves against each other, Ron Shelton, who wrote and directed, created a razor-sharp script overflowing with unforgettable quotes — the title itself originates from a jibe made by Deane, who mocks Billy's slam dunk ability during a two-on-two tournament, saying:
It's a film that has universal appeal, loved by basketball fans, quoted by general cinemagoers, and received positive reviews from critics following its release. In 2008, it was also nominated for the American Film Institute's Top 10 list of all-time sports movies, although it didn't make the final shortlist.
#KenyaBarris's involvement is a silver lining, although he is contracted by Fox — who own rights to the original — as part of an overall deal he signed with them in September, which could suggest the studio are the main instigators of the remake, rather than Barris approaching the source material with ideas for a new angle.
A Story That Doesn't Need Updating
That raises the question of the motivation for the remake, other than an established marker guaranteed to make money at the box office. If a like-for-like remake is on the roster, casting two leads who can match Snipes and Harrelson will be an arduous (if not impossible) task.
#WhiteMenCantJump isn't a film that needs updating; it easily stands the test of time, feeling just as fresh when viewed 25 years later as it did in 1992 (presumably — I was too young then, but if it wasn't fresh upon release, it has aged like a fine wine, so in some ways that's a bigger compliment). Equally, if the story is taken in a completely different direction, why not build on that idea and create an original script with no link to the original?
The film could be a surprise. Perhaps it'll provide an insightful, updated depiction of race relations, relevant to modern day. That's certainly something well within Barris's skillset. However, the problem lies with the landscape of Hollywood — it's becoming more and more popular for studios to thread narratives to an already establish name.
Ultimately, perhaps it's best to avoid jumping to conclusions on whether this will be a hit or not. You never know, maybe #Fox's audacious lob from the half court will land a surprise cinematic three pointer.
Is the White Men Can't Jump remake a bad idea? Or could it be a surprise hit?
(Source: The Hollywood Reporter)