Rated PG, 89 min. Directed by Steve Carr. Starring Martin Lawrence, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Breckin Meyer, Horatio Sanz, Oren Williams, Steven C. Parker, Steven Anthony Lawrence, Tara Correa, Eddy Martin, Patrick Warburton.
As predictable as a sunrise, this Mighty Ducks/Bad News Bears clone is also entirely inoffensive, lacking even the most basic profanities and sophomoric japes usually associated with Martin Lawrence. As such, it’s a ready cinematic babysitter for harried moms and dads who need some weekend downtime detox from the brood. (Never mind that the kids are sure to theatre-hop on over to War of the Worlds as soon as their ’rents are out of sight.) Lawrence plays Roy McCormick, a legendary college basketball coach who’s more interested in resting on his laurels and signing lucrative endorsement deals than he is in shepherding his team to victory. Saddled with an anger-management problem and an ego roughly the size of Eddie Murphy’s salary circa The Nutty Professor, McCormick is served with a lifetime coaching ban after an on-court meltdown that results in the demise of the opposing team’s animal mascot. All is not lost, however, as his sleazy manager (Meyer) discovers a loophole in the NCAA rules that allows his charge one more shot at coaching. The catch is that the only team that will hire him is that of his old junior high school, a team so bad and ill-trained they only have five players, archetypes all. There’s Ralph (Lawrence), who throws up every time he gets jittery; One Love (Martin), a pint-sized Dennis Rodman-in-the-making; fat kid Fuzzy (Logan McElroy); Goggles (Gus Hoffman), whose face is a magnet for wayward foul balls; and the genuinely talented Keith (Williams), whose mother (Robinson) also happens to be the school’s resident sexpot teacher. Eager to please his NCAA overlords, McCormick revamps and reschools the team into a quicksilver dynamo, adding gangsta girl Big Mac (Correa) and introverted, gawky, 6-foot-2-inch Wes (Parker) to the mix, all the while unleashing his team’s inner sporting superstars and wooing Mrs. Robinson. It will arrive as a surprise only to those whose last cinema outing sported a piano player down front that McCormick’s new team comes out on top, as does his romance and his injured sense of fair play. What makes Rebound palatable is the film’s young cast, who are given fully developed characters to work within and some genuinely affecting moments of gymnasium pathos. Correa and Parker are particularly well-drawn characters, and their unexpected puppy love comes across not as a cynical addendum to the storyline but as a natural outgrowth of their yin and yang personalities. Rebound is never really much more than what it would appear, but director Carr, who helmed the similarly predictable Daddy Day Care, keeps things moving, both on and off the court, with the sort of light, sweet humor you’re not likely to find in too many other summer movies.
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