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Saturday
May152010

Just Wright

When you watch a romantic comedy, you expect certain things. You expect an unlikely pair to fall in love. You expect a misunderstanding to create drama. You expect montages to show a passage of time. But rarely do you see a movie as traditional and formulaic as Just Wright, the latest rom-com clone to puke its way onto movie screens.

The film takes place in New Jersey and stars Queen Latifah as Leslie Wright, a physical therapist who, along with her friend and roommate Morgan, played by Paula Patton, is looking for a husband. The problem is neither have found the right guy. Leslie wants a traditional man, someone who can love and protect her. She doesn’t care about stature or money. Morgan, on the other hand, is planning on bagging an NBA star from their local team, the New Jersey Nets. After an encounter at a gas station, the two are invited to a birthday party for the Nets’ star player, Scott McKnight, played by Common, who quickly falls for Morgan and asks her to marry him, but after a crippling injury that threatens the future of his career, Morgan bails and Leslie finds herself a live in therapist who plans on having him ready to play in the upcoming playoffs.

It’s not that the cutely titled Just Wright is unbelievable, because I could see how a charmer like Queen Latifah could win over a big time NBA star with a heart of gold, it’s just that the road the film takes to its inevitable conclusion is paved with every trick of the romantic comedy trade. It plays a familiar tune from beginning to end and strains your patience.

One of the biggest pratfalls of many romantic comedies is that the drama is something that the audience can’t relate to. The problems are sometimes so wrought with trivial matters that it creates a significant separation between the characters and the viewer. Just Wright, not surprisingly, lands the same fate. Outside of the romantic angle, the largest dramatic arc the film takes is the question of whether or not Scott will be able to play in the NBA again after tearing an important ligament in his knee. His contract is closing soon and he will become a free agent, but if he can’t get better by the playoffs, the league may become uninterested in him. Well, so what? He’s a millionaire, adored by the public and regardless of whether or not he can play basketball again, he’ll be just fine. Worse tragedies have occurred in the history of mankind. Suck it up Scott.

Many romances hinge on the drama, but another important aspect that this film similarly fails on is the chemistry between the two leads. Though Queen Latifah has always been likable, she’s dragged down by Common who couldn’t act his way out of a box. His past experience in films like Wanted, Terminator Salvation and Smokin’ Aces has given him little to do but stand around and scowl. Here he’s expected to emit something, anything really, but he can’t. Every smile looks forced and every line of dialogue comes out flat. The only compliment I can give him is that he has good form when shooting a jump shot.

I try not to be too grouchy when it comes to these types of movies, but I’ve become so burdened with watching this tripe that I can only take so much. Even the little things start to get to me. In one annoying example of trying to be cute, Scott feeds Leslie chicken noodle soup when she's sick. Well, that’s the thing. She has a cold. She’s not dying. She can lift the spoon herself. Gag worthy moments like this cluttered Just Wright and by the time the credits rolled, I felt sick myself.

Just Wright receives 1/5