“White men can’t jump,” Sidney Deane (played by Wesley Snipes) told Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson) in the 1992 film of the same name.
By the film’s end, Billy had proven Sidney wrong. But 31 years later, that assumption still stands.
Kamal Allen is a former high school basketball star who was slated to play in the NBA—until he got arrested his senior year, that is. Now, when he’s not working as a delivery driver, he plays pick-up basketball for cash.
Jeremy played basketball for Gonzaga (and there was talk of his own NBA run). But after tearing both of his ACLs, he found himself addicted to painkillers, selling detox drinks to gym rats and training teen wannabe basketball stars.
Both men want more for their lives. So when they learn about a basketball tournament with a $25,000 prize (and an automatic admission to an even bigger tournament with a $500,000 prize), they decide to team up, hustle some local players to earn the entrance fee and prove once and for all that white men can jump.
When the story begins, Kamal has a bit of a chip on his shoulder. His mom abandoned him and his dad when he was just a boy. His dad, who was incredibly loving and supportive of his son, was then diagnosed with multiple sclerosis right as Kamal’s basketball career was taking off. Then that promising career plummeted when Kamal made a bad choice and got arrested.
Kamal continues to make similar bad choices into adulthood, and he apologizes to his father, Benji, for letting him down. However, in that moment of vulnerability, Benji tells Kamal that he’s proud of him. He apologizes for letting Kamal down by not giving him the tools his son would need to work through life’s problems.
From that moment on, instead of letting the past haunt him, Kamal chooses to look back on happy memories instead. He remembers practicing basketball with his dad and the encouragement his father always gave him. Kamal decides to set a better example for his own son and to provide a more stable life for his family.
Friends and family show up for each other in times of need. Characters apologize for their shortcomings and earnestly try to do better. Men grow up and step up to become leaders of their families. A man repeatedly helps others to overcome anger issues.
Jeremy meditates to help him focus and teaches others to do the same. A man jokes that someone’s “Haitian ancestors” made him trip over something, referring to voodoo.
A few couples kiss passionately. It’s implied that one of these couples has sex immediately after that. In another scene, a woman climbs on top of her boyfriend, kissing him while he is driving a car. An unwed couple lives together.
We see a man’s bare rear in a locker room. A man exercises without a shirt on. Several women wear revealing or tight-fitting clothing.
There are several crude jokes about sex, the male anatomy, fantasies, fetishes, sexual orientation and pornography.
We learn that Kamal went to jail because he beat up a classmate in high school. (We also witness this fight in a flashback: The boy he hit sports a bloody nose and has to be held up by his friends afterward.) Kamal picks several other fights during the film, often needing very little provocation. After sucker punching one guy, the man’s buddy lights up a flamethrower, then chases Kamal down the street with. In another fight, Kamal chokes someone and threatens to do worse.
Jeremy provokes a few fights himself. After starting one with a group of teenagers, he’s kicked out of a gym. Later, he’s banned from a competition after knocking out a heckler in the crowd.
We see scars on Jeremy’s knees from his surgeries. He reinjures himself a few times while playing basketball. Several characters are knocked around while playing the sport as well.
A man storms out of his house in anger, slamming the door. There are a few jokes about violence and murder.
Language is arguably the biggest content issue in this remake. We hear about 135 uses of the f-word, 60 of the s-word and 15 of the n-word. We also hear multiple uses of “a–,” “b–ch,” “d–n,” “d–k,” “h—,” “p-ss” and “p—y.” Many song lyrics include profanity as well. God’s name is abused about 10 times (three paired with “d–n”) and Christ’s name is abused twice. We see a crude hand gesture.
Jeremy, as I mentioned before, is addicted to painkillers. He purchases them illegally from a dealer at his gym. After Kamal injures his hand, Jeremy gives him a few pills. And at one point, he pairs the drugs with alcohol, becoming drunken and disorderly.
Someone mentions a failed marijuana shop then offers CBD cupcakes to a friend. Kamal’s buddy gets a child to purchase marijuana for him. Kamal is mocked for not using the drug himself.
People drink and smoke.
Kamal and Jeremy spend about 90% of this film lying, cheating and gambling. It leads to many of the physical fights mentioned above, and it strains their relationships with their significant others.
Selfishness can also be an issue. Jeremy actually gets angry at his girlfriend when she’s given an amazing career opportunity. And after Kamal gets laid off, he uses a harsh tone with his wife when she suggests an undesirable (but stable) job option.
In case the title didn’t give it away, race is a constant topic in this film. It comes in the form of name-calling and prejudice, though to be fair, we do hear some deeper discussions about race relations as well. .
We hear some jokes and comments about committing crimes. Characters hurl insults at one another throughout the film. People are often rude to one another. There are a few jokes about weight.
A man dies after a battle with a chronic disease. We hear that “rich people” are obsessed with stem cell research; Jeremy himself becomes obsessed after learning it might cure his ACL injuries.
Kamal’s father, Benji, has multiple sclerosis. And when he misses one of Kamal’s basketball games in high school (because he’s in the hospital for treatment), a classmate mockingly suggests that Kamal’s dad abandoned him, much like the bully’s mother had years before.
So, can white men jump?
Well, based on the premise of this film, I’d have to say, “Sure.” But really, that’s not what matters here.
What matters is the content of this remake.
F-words alone top the 130 mark. That’s more than one per minute. And that tally doesn’t include the hundred or so other profanities used elsewhere throughout the movie.
When a film contains f-bombs in the triple digits, you’d likely expect it to be riddled with other problems as well. But shockingly, White Men Can’t Jump is relatively mild in those other areas.
Sure, we get a couple of fistfights, often started by Kamal or Jeremy. That said, both men demonstrate character growth and increasing maturity in this area, too.
There’s also some sexual content to be mindful of. The only nudity, a man’s bare rear in a locker room, is played for humor. But Jeremy and his girlfriend live together, and we see suggestive behavior leading up to sex in at least one scene.
The film has some nice messages about positive race relations, and we see men stepping up to provide for their families. Still, the number of profanities we hear pretty much drowns out those messages.
Hoop. There it is.
Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.