Just Wright is billed as a romantic comedy, but it doesn’t have many laughs to offer, and not a lot in the way of real romance either. Maybe that’s O.K. The very platonic chemistry between its stars—Queen Latifah as a goodhearted physical therapist and the rapper Common as a goodhearted NBA celebrity—makes them look more like teammates than lovers. The pair trades platitudes openly, and believe what they say. Shoe squeaks fly more freely than romantic sparks. Comity trumps comedy. Maybe this is a movie about good sportsmanship.
The very platonic chemistry between its stars—Queen Latifah as a goodhearted physical therapist and the rapper Common as a goodhearted NBA celebrity—makes them look more like teammates than lovers.
Be a sport and ask yourself this: Can an unpretentious, plus-sized Jersey girl ever hope to nab herself the star forward of the New Jersey Nets? Can she do it even with her girlier, more glamorous gold-digger god sister (Paula Patton), who wants so much to sit with the players’ wives, very much in the way? Sure she can.
It will require some patience. But in better moments, Sanaa Hamri’s skill with plot points has the odd effect of making Michael Elliot’s predictable script feel economical. The movie acts casual, just loping along and acquainting itself with its audience, being friendly but not forward. Hey, it eventually asks, wanna shoot some hoops and jump through some?
And so the perpetual-bridesmaid stands by with bemusement as her gal pal first gets the guy, and then gets spooked by his career-threatening injury. At which point, finally, the therapist can get to work. No doubt she’ll have this all-star back in shape in time for the playoffs, and with his head screwed on right enough this time to fall for her, too.
In other words, Just Wright is wish fulfillment for curvy women and for New Jersey Nets fans. It’s to the stars’ credit that its familiar inevitabilities play out as encouraging discoveries. Generally, you don’t need music to transition from solemn piano (that signifies the star’s low self-esteem) to the steady pump of cock rock to know what’ll happen when Queen Latifah insists that she will not fail.
Beyond that, the movie seems to know it needn’t belabor Latifah’s low-key lovability. That asset comes naturally already; casting her was enough. And Common makes up for his missing nuances with a charming wide-openness. He gets the important stuff, like gratitude, which in an absurdly artificial situation helps keep the fantasy from getting ruined. Even if we can’t call Just Wright a winner, we can at least congratulate it on a good game.