1938. Two years after the birth of basketball, thanks to the great James Naismith. Legendary author H.G. Wells’ ‘The War of the Worlds’ made its debut radio broadcast. People back then were so convinced of this classic martian story that they actually believed aliens were invading the earth.
Today if the Philadelphia 76ers tweet about Adam Sandler doing the ‘Hustle’ for Netflix, then people may just believe that ‘The Waterboy’ has become part of the Sixers’ staff.
Now that’s what I’d call a process.
So before Sandler gets inundated with slides into his DM’s asking him to find Embiid and Harden help, let’s get it all down on paper. Legendary comedy actor Adam Sandler has been known for a dramatic turn.
See Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Punch Drunk Love’, or the post-9/11 ‘Reign On Me’ with Don Cheadle. And now he stars in the streaming service’s new hit movie ‘Hustle’. Only a couple of years after making ‘Uncut Gems’ with Boston Celtic Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett. A classic that should have got a big-ticket to the Oscars.
Netflix may have more hoop dream movies, from ‘High Flying Bird’ to ‘Amateur’ and documentaries like ‘The Last Dance’ and the ‘Untold: Malice at the Palace’, than they do cancelled shows. But how about a refreshing take on how to get to the NBA? From the undrafted shores of the world, to the heralded Draft Combine.
Basketball movies always seem to score. Think ‘Glory Road’ or ‘Coach Carter’. But not like this. Swinging big like Brad Pitt’s ‘Moneyball’. Stepping up like the creed of Michael B. Jordan ‘Rocky’ inspiration, in a terrific training montage. This is an agent of change, like the mission statement of Tom Cruise’s ‘Jerry Maguire’.
Executive produced from ‘The Shop’ of Maverick Carter’s SpringHill Company with childhood friend LeBron James. No stranger to basketball blockbusters himself after his ‘Space Jam’ sequel, ‘A New Legacy’. Not to mention the swing of Sandler’s own Happy Madison Productions. The drama directed by rookie Jeremiah Zagar, earning his start, clocks in at 117 minutes before the buzzer.
Just shy of under two hours and a few more jokes akin to Adam’s tradition. It’s a real and raw look at how you make it in the big leagues these days. With a few licks thrown in for good measure. Mostly about your mother.
Sandler stars alongside hip-hop royalty and amazing actress Queen Latifah, who made love and basketball ‘Just Wright’ with Common. Platinum character actor Ben Foster. And ‘The Godfather’ of acting legends, Robert Duvall.
Yet it’s the Utah Jazz’s very own Juancho Hernangómez, who makes his mark as the untapped potential of a Spanish bull that goes by the name Bo Cruz. But not Sandler’s scouted nickname of ‘The Cruz Missile’. Not even in these ‘Maverick’ days of ‘Top Gun’ sequels, re-entering the danger zone.
From pick-up games abroad, to picking up the tab on hotel room bills that buy out the mini-bar, Sandler’s Stanley Sugerman knows there’s more at stake in Philly than the cheese. It’s a good job Kenny ‘The Jet’ Smith is by his side. The NBA great and broadcast vet playing Leon Rich. A sports agent with the best name in the business.
Remind you of anyone, ‘Bron?
In Hollywood, Anthony Edwards may be the name of a ‘Top Gun’ actor whose Goose character is the catalyst of the sequel of the summer. But in the hoops world, we know him as the Minnesota Timberwolves superstar who turned Japanese Toronto player Yuta Watanabe into a flag, let alone a poster. Here he scene steals as a cocky character you love to hate called Kermit Wilts. With more hops than a frog searching for a new pad.
Boban Marjanović gets our vote as best pro playing a part here, though. His opening cameo matching the time he went toe-to-toe with Keanu Reeves in ‘John Wick: Chapter 3-Parabellum’, before Keanu threw the book at him in their library throw down. The Maverick seven-foot, former Sixer plays an international prospect, claiming he’s 21. That’s like Muggsy Bogues saying he can guard him. And just wait until you see his son.
From the streets of Philadelphia, to the legendary ballplayers who paved the way, from the blacktop to the hardwood. To spoil the rest of the classic cameos as themselves here would be like giving away a Marvel movie. So we won’t. But from hometown legends that became Raptor ones and icons who give this new one the ‘Boa Constrictor’ nickname (much more direct than ‘Missile’), there’s more here than the time superfan Billy Crystal played a referee in the romantic comedy ‘Forget Paris’.
More importantly, ‘Hustle’ even blows the whistle on the madness of the media that tries to muddy the waters of a pool of young players who still aren’t old enough to drive. Even though they do that down the lane, time-after-time. Against all sorts of opposition on the floor and all the way up in the nosebleeds. Sneering to get a look in on the life they can’t have.
It’s the dynamic drama that doesn’t court a single cliché and the all heart, soulful warmth it brings without tugging at our strings, that really plays.
All scored to a soundtrack of Philadelphia soul. From The Roots of the streets, to the Rocafella’s of Freeway and Beanie Sigel, feeling it in the air.
Not to confused with the Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson comedy of the same name. This ‘Hustle’ takes us for all it’s worth.
Like Bo cruising in the open-court, it’s a steal.