A Comparative Analysis
Meet The New White Men Can’t Jump
A remake of the film White Men Can’t Jump from 1992, bearing the same title, was released in May 2023, with many unsurprisingly comparing it to the original. The film was directed by Calmatic, who directed another remake recently of the 1990 film House Party. The new screenplay is written by Kenya Barris and Doug Hall, with the original director and writer Ron Shelton being credited as well. The film stars Sinqua Walls, who played basketball at University, as Kamal Allen, and the rapper Jack Harlow as Jeremy. Their names are different from that of the original, which starred Woody Harrison playing Billy and Wesley Snipes playing Sidney. The original tells the story of two Los Angeles street hustlers who embark on one of history’s most memorable film rivalries. Billy, a former college basketball player, initially hustles Sidney, who selects him to play in a game of street basketball, assuming he’d be horrible because he is white. In turn, Sidney cons Billy out of money by enticing him into gambling in a match he had rigged beforehand. What follows is an ongoing battle of basketball and one-upping but also a more complex story where the characters change and ultimately have more to say than one might first assume.
The remake, however, is not a direct copy and does differ from its predecessor. The 2023 film is much more of a simple come back and proving oneself type of story. The character of Jeremy, despite attempting to be charismatic, misses the mark. It is hard to be too invested in his character. Many of the characters’ complexity and tension seem to have been written out. It is important to note that some of the acting was better than others, particularly the acting of Sinqua Walls, whose character is supposed to be equivalent to Sidney, and the late Lance Reddick, who plays Kamal’s father, which would prove to be one of his last roles. However, even with these moments of better acting, it doesn’t do much to save the film.
Does it Hold Up Against the Original?
The 2023 film has so far received mostly negative reviews. The film is very concerned with appealing to young audiences who might not be familiar with the original film or possibly only know of it from the reunion the cast made at the Academy Awards in 2022. The remake premiered on Hulu with no theatrical release. It is unclear what it will make against a 29 million-dollar budget.
On the other hand, the 1992 White Men Can’t Jump received mostly positive reviews from both audiences and critics alike, and for good reason. The film ignited a buzz around sports comedies and was praised for using more serious subject matter, making it not “just a simple basketball comedy.” It was released theatrically both in the United States and abroad. The film made nearly 91 million dollars against a 31 million dollar budget. It has been cited as an influence on future films by many and is also among many directors’ favorite films, including the late Stanley Kubrick.
In recent years there has been an increase in film franchises and remakes, trying to continue something that audiences originally liked in hopes of a guaranteed return; however, nothing good can last forever or, in this case, be remade endlessly. Not all films need a remake, especially ones that got it right the first time. The 2023 remake of White Men Can’t Jump is another example proving that just because a film was well-loved does not mean its remake will be equally well-received.
Connecting With the Characters
The original film’s greatness can largely be attributed to Shelton’s writing and directing and the cast’s acting. Both Snipes and Harrelson are very convincing in their respective roles. They bring authenticity and complexity to their characters. The acting of the rest of the cast cannot be overlooked as well. Rosie Perez plays Gloria, Billy’s girlfriend, who is on the run with him from mobsters to who Billy owes money. Perez ropes in the audience, making us sympathize with Gloria and root for her to achieve her goals, mainly to make it onto Jeopardy! and become rich. The remake, however, doesn’t feel as though there is enough at stake. The relationship between the two leads doesn’t contain the same amount of tension, nor do they have compelling relationships with the rest of the cast, including their love interests.
The harder the characters attempt to be funny, the flatter the jokes fall. Even in the trailer, where usually some of the best and funniest scenes in the case of comedies are shown can feel embarrassing for the audience. In the preview, Jeremy says to Kamal, after beating him in making more shots says snarkily, “So I prefer Venmo or Velle, but you seem like a Cash App guy, so…”. This is just one example of the film trying to be trendy at all costs making references that will likely be outdated in the near future. The film seems to confuse making comments about odd trends on social media or current apps with being funny. Films shouldn’t have to continually remind the audience of every popular thing going on at the moment to be relevant, but this remake clearly thinks so.
Differences In Tone and Atmosphere Between the Original and the Remake
One of the things that work about the cinematography in the original is its gritty and more down-to-earthiness. The story is not polished or clean, and it is clear that the filmmakers understood this. The production team went to great lengths to make the film feel authentic, including hiring Bob Lanier, a former professional basketball player and Hall of Famer, to coach the cast, particularly Harrelson and Snipes. They also hired many ex-professional ball players in various supporting roles. The new White Men Can’t Jump feels as though little preparation went into deciding how to make the film look and feel authentic and grounded, even in its more wild scenes. The soundtrack for the remake also felt thrown together, with short snippets of songs being thrown in even when not necessary. Despite the remake having a shorter runtime, its soundtrack is nine songs longer. The audience rarely gets a moment of space in the film to enjoy. Even some musicals allow their audience more time away from its soundtrack.
Closing Thoughts on White Men Can’t Jump (2023)
After watching the remake of White Men Can’t Jump, it couldn’t be over soon enough. This is not because “all remakes are inherently worse than the original.” Many film remakes are better, such as the classic The Maltese Falcon, which was actually a remake of an earlier comedy version, and other acclaimed films such as Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978), Little Shop Of Horrors (1986), and It: Chapter 1 and 2 (2017, 2019). Sadly, the remake of White Men Can’t Jump is not one of those films. Fans of the original will not be missing out by skipping the 2023 version, and even those that aren’t would make better use of their time watching other, much more entertaining sports comedies.
White Men Can’t Jump (2023). Official Hulu Trailer.
|In addition to writing for Dead Talk News, Stella has also been published by The National Organization for Women, The Aurora Philosophy Institute, Phase Zero Magazine, and more. She has loved film since she was little, particularly old and obscure films. Stella currently attends The New School in New York City.