The Queen and the NBA Star
The utterly predictable story for Just Wright is, frankly, beneath Queen Latifah, but I suppose she didn't think so. Latifah is coasting through her acting career, and when she takes leading roles it's usually in lightweight romances or comedies -- and it's really not the "romances or comedies" part that bothers me. It's much more that, creatively, they're not very interesting.
However, Latifah usually makes up for this with her charming screen persona. Just Wright is another example of this -- the story concerns physical therapist Leslie Wright (Latifah) who ends up with the job of helping to rehabilitate an NBA superstar named Scott McKnight (Common). Brought to the situation by Leslie's golddigging best friend Morgan (Paula Patton), the grounded Leslie and the gentle, soft-spoken Scott eventually bond. No points for guessing what happens.
And yet what often buoys a romantic film starring Latifah is the subtext about a woman of size being sexy and having every bit an equal chance to land a man of her dreams. It's the encouraging tonic that makes her movies so pleasing, and in Just Wright it's made sharper by her character's direct competition with her skinny and very attractive friend for a prize catch -- no less than a millionaire gentleman basketball player. In a way, this movie flips the over-expressed male fantasy of the socially awkward guy who somehow ends up with the hottest girl. There's nothing wrong in saying the dreams of a regular girl should receive an equal kind of indulgence.
Director Sanaa Hamri, as she has with her past movies, give this one warmth, tastefulness, and an absense of over-dramatic conflicts. The whole movie sails smoothly, but it would've been smoother if Common were a better actor and generated more real chemistry with Latifah. Latifah, though, knows once again it's her movie to carry, and she's already quite accustomed to doing this job well.
(Released by Fox Searchlight and rated "PG" for some suggestive material and brief language.)
Review also posted at www.windowtothemovies.com.