'Just Wright' shoots — and misses by a mile
By Roger Moore
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
"Just Wright," starring Queen Latifah as a physical therapist who helps an NBA star rehab a bum knee, isn't a "romantic comedy." It's light in tone, feather-weight. But there aren't many laughs in it.
So it's a romance, softer and squishier than director Sanaa Hamri's superior romance "Something New."
Everybody, from the love triangle at the heart of the picture to the NBA players who compete with Scott McKnight (Common) and his New Jersey Nets, is just as sweet as can be.
And since the frisson of conflict is what makes movies work, "Just Wright" flounders, slick as an NBA commercial, pretty as a Jersey-in-spring postcard.
Latifah is Leslie Wright, a physical therapist with a new fixer-upper townhouse, doting mom (Pam Grier) and not-so-handyman dad (James Pickens Jr.). She's also an NBA fan, but she can't go see her beloved Nets without gorgeous god-sister Morgan (Paula Patton of "Precious") in tow.
Morgan is a gold-digger, a vain and shallow predator looking to become an "NBA wife," with the privileges and perks (her own fashion line) that entails. No sense lecturing her on getting a real job.
"This is my job."
Leslie is the one who helps McKnight at a chance encounter at a gas station and lands an invitation to his birthday party. Morgan, however, is the one who can and does close the deal. But when McKnight hurts his knee and needs six weeks of rehab to get ready for the playoffs, it's Leslie who comes to the rescue. As she tough-loves him back into shape, his mom (Phylicia Rashad) approves.
"I like that girl," she says again and again.
A more interesting movie would have run a lot further with this whole "NBA wives" thing, the tales of the National Babydaddy Association having women and children at cities all over the country, the primped and packaged Morgans who pursue wealthy young athletes like hounds on a fox.
But "Just Wright" settles for less than that at every turn, wasting its access to NBA players, team officials and the like. Latifah smiles sweetly; Common — better known for his scowl and his scary eyes — tries on a grin.
They're pleasant enough, but they have no chemistry. Patton waters down her potentially edgier character so that this PG romance plays like Nicholas Sparks without the tragedy, and without the beach.
And that's just wrong.