FFWD REW

The Longshots is long on tedium

Hurry up and play the big game so we can go home

To point out that The Longshots is clichéd is not useful. If you are contemplating seeing this film you already know that it is about a teenage girl seeking acceptance and self-esteem by joining a middle-school football team and also about her slowly evolving friendship with her curmudgeonly uncle who attempts to coach these underdogs to victory. Nobody’s expecting originality here. The question is is this familiar story told in an interesting way? Sadly the answer is no it isn’t.

Since the path followed by The Longshots has been blazed by countless other sports movies you might reasonably hope that the film would use our familiarity with genre clichés to speed things up a bit and get to the good bits. Nope. The whole thing chugs along with a maddening lack of urgency. When Curtis (Ice Cube) and his niece Jasmine (Keke Palmer) are first forced to spend time together they can barely stand one another’s company and we have to wait for their friendship to form. The story has nowhere to go until this happens. Then he introduces her to football. She is reluctant to take up the sport despite her natural talent for it. The story still has nowhere to go until this happens. Then she tries out for the team which is reluctant to accept a girl into its ranks. Again we wait for the inevitable and glance at our watches waiting for any kind of surprising development. Then we give up and simply count down the minutes until the end credits as the life drains from our eyes.

There’s nothing wrong with the cast but nobody can save material like this. Half-baked plot points turn up at regular intervals as if being crossed off a producer’s checklist before disappearing without affecting the story in any important way. Jasmine starts off obsessed with a Harry Potter-esque fantasy novel only to ditch it when the film no longer requires her to be socially awkward. A cheerleader behaves horridly towards Jasmine for no reason other than to provide the film with a villain. Curtis starts dating Jasmine’s teacher but we care about this development as little as the film itself which is very very little. These non-events continue to pile up slowing down an already sluggish narrative. Only the surprise arrival of Jasmine’s thoughtless and unreliable absentee father threatens to make this movie actually about something but it’s too little too late.

The charming teen soccer film Bend it Like Beckham (2002) came out six years ago and people still sort of remember it with a smile. Six years from now the people who saw The Longshots and the people who didn’t will both be in the same boat. Neither party will be able to remember that this movie even existed.

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