Predictable `Rebound' fouls out

Movie Review

July 01, 2005|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Martin Lawrence goes the well-trod, kid-friendly route in Rebound, playing - and how many times have we seen this one before? - the irascible, fish-out-of-water coach of a bunch of not-ready-for-prime-time kid athletes who have about as much chance succeeding in sports as a snowball has of making it through Hades unscathed.

But what do you wanna bet both the kids and the coach come away from their experiences together not only wiser, but better people?

If this sounds a little like The Bad News Bears, that's only because it is (and aren't we all looking forward to that remake later this summer?). It's also, with a few little tweaks, the plot of Hoosiers, A League of Their Own, School of Rock, Hard Ball, The Mighty Ducks and at least a dozen other films we could all think of with just a little effort.

What we have here is a formula movie for a star looking to soften his image, scale back his bad-boy rep for one that's more palatable to the masses. Rebound realizes that modest goal but not through any fault of its own.

Listlessly directed by Steve Carr (Daddy Day Care and Dr. Dolittle 2, movies in which Eddie Murphy went for the same image makeover Lawrence is after here) from a script utterly devoid of original ideas, Rebound works only because of Lawrence's easy charm and the kids' irresistible appeal. Lawrence is a pro, so it's no stretch for him to tone down the act and become all embraceable. And what's not to love about a bunch of misfit kids given the chance to shine?

On the other hand, what's to admire about it? Everybody goes through the motions (including a team of five writers, three of whom were needed to come up with the idea for this film). You may smile watching the results, even laugh occasionally, but you're not going to walk out of the theater impressed with anyone's effort or dazzled by anyone's profundity.

Lawrence plays Roy McCormick, a mega-successful college hoops coach with a huge ego and an even bigger temper. When the latter goes on display one time too many, he's suspended from the league. His only way back: accept a job coaching at his junior-high alma mater and hope the resulting image rehab takes hold of the national consciousness.

The kids he's given to work with at Mount Vernon Junior High leave a lot to be desired. One throws up all the time, another is too busy staring at himself in the mirror to play the game, a third is more likely to have a ball bounce off his face than dribble it, and the only kid who does know how to play is a hot dog who refuses to pass. As a team, they've never scored a basket.

At first, Roy wants nothing to do with any of this; he's content to just sit on the sidelines and hope his agent can generate some good publicity out of it all. But soon his pride takes over, or maybe he just feels sorry for the kids, or maybe he just wants to score points with the sexy single mom (Wendy Raquel Robinson) of one of the players.

Whatever the reason, he starts teaching the kids the finer points of the game, as well as the finer points of life - like taking pride in yourself. And what do you know, within a few weeks, his Smelters are playing for the state championship.

Not a thing happens in Rebound you shouldn't be able to guess within the film's first 10 minutes. And while the kids are all given their crowd-pleasing moments to shine, some of them deserve better. That's especially true of Tara Correa as Big Mac, a bruiser of a girl who's recruited by Roy to serve as the team's muscle - a joke that never goes anywhere, despite the young actor's best efforts (oddly, she's not even included in the film's triumphant final scene).

Rebound is determinedly lightweight fare that shamelessly resorts to every crowd-pleasing cliche it can think of to wring sympathy and laughs from its audience. To say it succeeds is not meant as a compliment.


Starring Martin Lawrence

Directed by Steve Carr

Released by 20th Century Fox

Rated PG (mild language and thematic elements)

Time 93 minutes


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