By Shawn McKenzie 07/02/2005
Martin Lawrence has been out of the game for a little while. His last two movies were 2003’s bomb National Security, followed by Bad Boys II, which barely recouped its $130 million budget. Now he is going after the Eddie Murphy family film market with Rebound, but as entertaining as the movie is, I don’t think that it is going to turn around his fortunes anytime soon.
Roy McCormick (Lawrence) is the head coach of Ohio Polytech University…and he is a bit of a hothead. He is rich from his many product endorsements, but his temper gets him in trouble one too many times. To top that off, his team has been on a losing streak, and the OPU Alumni Association Members (Brian Palermo and Matt McCoy) are a little concerned about that. After getting into a fight with the opposing team’s mascot (Gary Owen) which results in accidentally killing their team bird, Roy is suspended for life from the NCBA. Roy’s agent, Tim Fink (Breckin Meyer), happens to have handy the NCBA rulebook, and the rules state that a college coach who is brought up on charges can get one more chance to redeem himself before being banned for life. That’s fine…but OPU no longer wants him, along with any other team in any league, because of his antics. Meanwhile, the kids who play on the Mt. Vernon Junior High Smelters basketball team have been watching the sports news and know of Roy’s predicament. They know that Roy used to go to school there as a kid, so they see a chance to reverse their fortunes using him. The Smelters are so bad that they have never scored a single point, much less won a game. According to the student sports reporters, Annie (Amy Bruckner) and Amy (Alia Shawkat), it has been years since the team has ever won a game. Each of them has something that is a little off. Ralph (Steven Anthony Lawrence) is the shortest player on the team, and every time he gets nervous, he…well…ralphs. He has four older brothers who were on the honor roll and were star athletes, so the nerves are justified. Goggles (Gus Hoffman) is a smart kid that isn’t very good at basketball, mainly because he is nearsighted, requiring his oversized glasses. Fuzzy (Logan McElroy) is a fat kid who can sometimes sink a basket, but he is a little overwhelmed by it at times. One Love (Eddy Martin) is a vain kid who is more concerned with looking good and with his basketball shoes, thinking that he will be someday drafted to a professional basketball team and will be able to enjoy any potential endorsement deals that come with it (he needs to work on his jump shot though.) Finally, Keith Ellis (Oren Williams) is the only kid on the team that has any actual talent, but he is a ball hog. Keith’s mom, Jeanie (Wendy Raquel Robinson), is the school’s music teacher, and she feels bad that Keith doesn’t have a dad, who left them years ago. The team conspires to recruit Roy by sending him a fax pretending to be Smelters officials giving him an offer to coach the team. Roy gets the fax, and he isn’t sure that he wants to accept it, but after a car repo woman (Laura Kightlinger) repossesses his car, he and Tim decide to take the offer. Roy goes to Principal Walsh (Megan Mullally), thinking that she was the one who sent the fax, to accept the offer. Walsh is a little surprised that he has come to do this, and even though she is aware of Roy’s temper, she isn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. The Smelters’ current coach, Mr. Newirth (Horatio Sanz), who is also the school’s home economics teacher, hasn’t really been cutting it, so she agrees to have Roy coach on a temporary basis. Newirth happily becomes Roy’s assistant coach, and Roy takes it easy, thinking that the Smelters will be able to win games easily with him as the coach. During their first game against the rival team the Vikings, coached by the loudmouth Larry Burgess Sr. (Patrick Warburton), who’s son, Larry Burgess Jr. (Cody Linley), is the star player on that team, the Smelters lose 0-109. Roy is shocked at how bad they are, and at first, he blames the school’s referee, Late Carl (Fred Stoller), who tends to come in somewhat tardy with his calls. After Roy gets word that his last endorsement deal has been canceled though, he decides to actually start coaching. He does this by recruiting two new players, Margaret “Big Mac” Ring (Tara Correa) and Wes (Steven Christopher Parker.) Big Mac is a female bully who is tough, but not very smart, requiring her to be held back for a few years. Roy wants her so that he can have at least one tough player on the team. Wes is a 6’2” band geek (he plays the French horn) who is uncoordinated and awkward on the basketball court. Roy wants Wes because he towers above all of the other players, and he nicknames him “The Sledgehammer” to boost his confidence. He also notices that Wes is intelligent, so he enlists the kid to tutor Big Mac, leading the giant and the tomboy to become involved with one another romantically. Jeanie (Wendy Raquel Robinson) doesn’t believe that Roy will be able to change his ways, so she gives him attitude whenever he is around (he is attracted to her though.) Roy introduces the team to concepts that are foreign to them…things like passing, rebounding, dribbling, shooting, and scoring. He even brings in the pimped-out Preacher Don (Lawrence again) and his sidekick (Katt Micah Williams) to inspire the team so that they can win some games. Soon the Smelters are actually winning games, and the exploits of the Smelters seem to become regular features on FOX Sports Channel’s “The Best Damn Sports Show Period,” hosted by John Salley and Tom Arnold (appearing as themselves.) Roy begins to remember that he loves the game of basketball, and coaching for the Smelters has done just that. The winning streak is noticed by the NCBA, and a board member (Beau Billingslea) offers Roy the chance to get his college coaching status back. Roy has to decide whether he wants to go back to OPU (they have offered him his job back as well) or stay with the Smelters.
Seeing the hits that Eddie Murphy has had recently with the movies Daddy Day Care, The Haunted Mansion, the two Dr. Doolittle movies, the two Nutty Professor movies, and the two Shrek movies, it is understandable that Lawrence would want to tap into the family market. Aside from Murphy, Ice Cube and Vin Diesel have had recent box office hits with family films (Are We There Yet?, which I haven’t seen yet, and The Pacifier, which I never want to see again), so this is Lawrence’s stab at it. Unfortunately, the marketing department did a horrible job at promoting it, because now it is competing against blockbusters like Batman Begins, War of the Worlds, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Madagascar, The Longest Yard, and the continued success of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. In fact…I have barely seen a television commercial promoting it. I have a feeling that a lot of people, especially families, won’t even realize that it is now in theaters.
Is it good anyway? Yes…I actually enjoyed it quite well. Steve Carr, the director responsible for Murphy’s Daddy Day Care and Dr. Doolittle 2, helmed the movie. I actually thought that this movie was better than those two Murphy films. I will fully admit that this is yet another predictable family sports film, following closely in the footsteps of Ice Princess and Kicking & Screaming (ironically, Steven Anthony Lawrence was also in the latter one), but I don’t care. There really hasn’t been an original family sports film since The Bad News Bears did it in 1976 (another irony is that Richard Linklater has remade that film for release later this month, starring Billy Bob Thornton), so I’ve given up hope that it will be original. I was just glad that it was entertaining. Lawrence proved that he could tone down his comedy and still be funny. There was no one in the movie that stood out aside from Lawrence, though Warburton’s brief appearances were amusing. I wish that they had developed Lawrence’s relationship with Robinson’s character Jeanie more, but he was believable as a father figure to Keith. I was also hoping that Mullally would have been able to stretch her comedic chops more, though I’m so glad that I didn’t have to suffer through much of the annoying Sanz.
Will Rebound be a big hit? I guess only time will tell, but if I had to predict its success myself, I would say that it will be a bomb. There is just no hype and too much competition to think that it will be one. Doesn’t Lawrence have any more influence with the studios he makes movies for? I would be ticked if I were the comedian. I liked the movie myself, but I really don’t think that it will rebound his career.
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