In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_xkcnr9xvmtfrsuehmlm5ql5urdn

Make Your Move

With camerawork and editing that allows us to truly enjoy the footwork of its stars, "Make Your Move" is a vibrant, fun dance movie.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives
Other Articles
Far Flunger Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

Fast Break

  |   May Contain Spoilers

One of the problems with sports movies is that they've always got to end with the Big Game. They all seem to start the same way, too, with a down-and-out contender and an invincible defending champ, and of course with a stubborn coach and a plucky team made up of problem cases. We've seen this formula so often that "Fast Break" is almost like a rerun.

The movie stars Gabe Kaplan as a would-be basketball coach who haunts the playgrounds of New York City, scouting talent. His wife is not quite sure this is the way an adult male should be spending his spare time, and she's not won over when Gabe gets his big offer: Cadwallader U., out in Nevada, needs a coach and wants Kaplan. The pay, to be sure, is a little thin: Fifty bucks, cash, for every game his team wins. But there's a goal to shoot for. If Kaplan's team beats State, he'll get a three-year, no-cut, $30,000 contract.

Kaplan takes the job, even though his wife decides to stay in New York. He recruits four black kids to form the nucleus of his new team, and they head West in a station wagon.

One of the kids seems a little strange to the rest of the guys, and gets the nickname "Swish." The truth, wouldn't you know, is that Swish is a girl ... a fact I would not reveal if the movie's ads didn't announce it in large type.

Cadwallader is a fourth-rate cow college with a president who's convinced that a winning team can put it on the map. And the sport should be basketball, he reasons, because it's cheaper, takes less in the way of uniforms, can be played indoors, and so on. The movie quickly settles down to its formula: Each of the kids has his problems, and the coach helps work them out while concealing big problems of his own. As movies like this go (and they all go the same way), the problems will simultaneously arrive at the crisis stage during the Big Game - and during the fourth quarter, of course, with Cadwallader a few points behind.

The trouble is, we've seen this formula so many times before that there can be no surprises, except for some small suspense about when the foreordained events will take place. The movie never seems quite sure, either, whether it's a comedy or a "human drama," and so we get heavy scenes (the coach leaving his wife, the girl player revealing her secret to a would-be suitor) and then lightweight ones (the opposing coach is hustled at pool). No tone is set for the film; each sequence seems to start out in a new direction.

Gabe Kaplan does an OK job as the coach. He's engaging, off the wall, likable. His role is so close to what he does on Welcome Back, Kotter, though, that we almost wonder why he didn't just play Kotter. He's an interesting actor, filled with energy, possessed of an offbeat comic timing. He'd be good in something a little more challenging, but then challenges seem to be what "Fast Break" was designed to avoid.

Popular Blog Posts

Hashtag Activism and the #CancelColbert campaign

The recent #CancelColbert campaign on Twitter raises all kinds of issues about racism, but also about hashtag activism.

One Year Later: Richard Roeper on Roger

Richard Roeper reflects on his long friendship and professional association with Roger Ebert.

For the love of it: notes on the decline of Entertainment Weekly, the firing of Owen Gleiberman, and the ongoing end of an era

Owen Gleiberman's sacking as lead film critic of Entertainment Weekly — part of a ritual bloodletting of staffers at ...

An amazing video: 1,001 Movies You Must See (Before You Die)

Jonathan Keogh presents an exuberant video about the movies.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus