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Sports Clichés Keep Rollin', Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'

The Longshots (2008)

Tony Rivetti Jr./Dimension Films

Unless something special happens, most sports movies adhere to a depressingly standardized template. You know the drill: Against all odds, underdog character/squad achieves success in whatever chosen competition, with an inspirational coach and a soundtrack full of reliable pop tunes to boot. Successful entries in the genre transcend the format by finding some sort of different, interesting angle with which to approach it, or by presenting characters so well rounded and likable that it’s hard to root against them.

“The Longshots,” directed by Fred Durst (yes, the former Limp Bizkit frontman), has been made with such careful attention to the genuinely inspirational elements of its story and the small town values at its core that it almost becomes a challenge to hate it – almost, because I still found plenty of room in my heart to loathe the movie’s rigid adherence to every last clichéd detail of the tried-and-true formula. Mr. Durst and screenwriter Nick Santora treat those details so seriously it’s as if it never occurred to them that we’ve seen them all before.

Competently directed but over dramatized, improbable and never especially involving, the story of the first female quarterback (Keke Palmer) in the history of Pop Warner football never taps into the historical significance of her achievement. It’s too busy being firmly trapped in bland feel-good movie land. Nothing about the picture rings true: not the trite downtrodden Midwestern milieu, the one-note characters or the football action. The music swells constantly, characters look upon one another with great feeling, and much of the production has been submerged in a schmaltzy haze. The filmmakers mean well, but we all know the road to hell is paved with good intentions.


Opened on Aug. 22 in the United States. 

Directed by Fred Durst; written by Nick Santora; director of photography, Conrad W. Hall; edited by Jeffrey Wolf; production design by Charles Breen; produced by Matt Alvarez, Ice Cube and Mr. Santora; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes. This film is rated PG.

WITH: Ice Cube (Curtis Plummer) and Keke Palmer (Jasmine).


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