January 28, 2013
Men Can't Jump
Woody Harrelson, Wesley Snipes, and Rosie Perez
you win, you really lose. And sometimes when you lose,
you really win. And sometimes when you win or lose, you
actually tie. And sometimes when you tie, you actually win or
lose. Winning or losing
is all one organic mechanism, from which one extracts what one needs."
"Hey hey man, what's the score? Yo! Chump! I'm talking to you!"
White Man Can't Jump is another one of those movies that I
wasn't originally intending to put on my countdown of underloved
If you had asked me a couple of months ago, I would have said
that no way could you call that movie underrated. EVERYONE
White Man Can't Jump. In fact most people I know would
rank it in the top twenty sports movies of all time. Most
I know would say it is the second best basketball movie ever, right
Ah but then I looked around the internet a little bit.
And that is when reality hit me.
went to the Internet Movie Database, and I expected to see hundreds of
positive comments about White Men Can't Jump. I figured all I
would see would be page after page of people raving about what a funny
movie it was. And what a big deal it was when it came out in
1992. And how awesome the dialogue and the script were.
figured this was one of those movies that pretty much everyone loved
But according to the IMDB? According
to the permanent record of how every movie will be remembered in
history according to the internet?
On the IMDB, there are only 62 user reviews about White Men Can't Jump.
Only 62 people (in more than twenty years!) have had enough
opinion of this movie to sit down and actually write a review of it.
And that is astounding when you consider what a big deal this
movie was when it came out. Oh, and one of the reviews on the
IMDB isn't even a review at all, it is only a joke review. So
we are down to only 61.
I sat there the other day reading all
these reviews, and I was shocked at what a minimal impact White Men
Can't Jump seems to have had on the world. Because you read
through the reviews and this is what you see over and over again:
"Why hadn't I ever heard
of this movie before?"
"This movie was good, but forgettable."
"I just saw this movie for the first time in 2010. It looked
stupid but it was actually pretty funny."
Oh and here is my favorite:
whole life I had heard that this was a bad movie. I saw it
weekend and it was actually very good. Why do people
Well okay. So this is where we stand at this point in
White Men Can't Jump is for some ungodly reason considered a
forgotten little relic of the early 90's.
And I'm sorry, but this shit needs to end right now.
Hands down, White Men Can't Jump is one of the funniest movies I have
ever seen in my life. Hands down. The story and the
acting and the writing are just fantastic. In fact,
Quentin Tarantino is always praised for writing scripts that
amazing dialogue? You know how he is universally considered
king of movie dialogue these days? Well I would rank the
dialogue in White Men
Can't Jump right up there with the dialogue in any Tarantino movie.
Between Wesley Snipes explaining to Woody Harrelson that
people can't "hear" Jimi Hendrix, to Rosie Perez pointing out that
when you ask for a glass of water you only want somebody to acknowledge
that you are thirsty, to the eight thousand and one mother jokes and
street taunts littered throughout the movie, this is one of those
scripts where the writing just jumps out
at you and you always remember it.
Wesley: "You wanna run?"
Woody: "You mean... play basketball?"
One of my fondest memories of growing up was the day that
White Men Can't Jump came out in the early 90's. I still
that day like it was yesterday. And the reason I will always
remember it is because of the dialogue.
You see, prior to 1992, a lot of suburban white kids had never
actually seen a game of street basketball before. Oh sure, we
have heard about it. If you were a white kid growing up in
suburbs you were probably aware that there was a place called Venice
Beach, and that people were known to play basketball there.
prior to White Men Can't Jump, most people had never seen the reality
of what a game of street ball in Venice would actually look like.
Then of course the movie came out.
And we saw.
We saw, and we learned.
(racial slur, mother joke)
(racial slur, mother joke, taunt)
(Roy Munson reference)
Yes, 1992 was the year that suburban white kids across the land learned
how profane a
game of basketball could be. And I have to tell you, it was
AMAZING. It was life changing. Yes, after
White Men Can't Jump, all you saw across America were dorky white kids
who had never left the suburbs before, and who probably shopped at the
Gap, yet who suddenly thought they were street ballers from the mean
streets of Venice. So they would be out there shooting hoops
their driveway with their friends, and they would suddenly have a
strut, and they would suddenly be throwing down mother jokes, and
everyone would be calling each other a motherfucking astronaut.
Seriously, I will never forget this. Most of
my friends were Mormon growing up. Little Mormon white kids.
And I can think of no better
memory from my childhood than watching my little white LDS
walking around playing basketball and all of sudden thinking they were
all Wesley Snipes. Only since they played basketball in a
church, and because they were Mormon,
they weren't allowed to swear. So the trash talking turned
everyone into a "motherforker"
or a "motherhecker."
I'm sorry. That's just funny.
This movie is not LDS friendly
By the way, I have a lot of friends who don't like sports
movies. So I know that a lot of people who are reading this
going to say "Eh, a basketball movie. Whatever.
Please don't say that.
there is one thing that I would like to impart about White Men Can't
Jump, if there is one thing I would like to say about it, above
anything else, it is that this is NOT specifically a basketball movie.
I mean yeah, a lot of it takes place on a court.
And yeah, there
are some really good hoops scenes. And yeah, a good portion
of the movie is dedicated to the question of if caucasians can actually
get rim. But this movie is about FAR more
than just basketball. Like I said before, the script and the
dialogue in White Men Can't Jump are just fantastic.
Especially the dialogue. It is a
perfect snapshot of what a cool movie looked like in the early 90's.
Seriously, when White Men Can't Jump came out, it was the
absolute apex of cool. This was the movie that EVERYONE was
talking about. When White Men Can't Jump came out, it was
much the 1992 version of The Fonz.
If the Fonz was a slow white geeky chump
Okay, before I end this review, I have to take a moment to talk about
one of my favorite actors of all time, Woody Harrelson.
Harrelson is one of those guys who is funny in everything. He
funny in EVERYTHING. Yet you hardly ever notice him because
so good at what he does. Woody Harrelson is one of those guys
has been around forever, and he has stolen movies (and TV shows) left
and right throughout his career, yet for some reason he has never
really gotten any credit for it because you don't really notice him.
I don't know why. Maybe
people just assume that Woody the actor is the same guy as
the bartender on Cheers. Maybe they think that he isn't
acting at all, maybe they think he is just being Woody.
Woody Harrelson has long been one of my favorite comedic actors.
And in my opinion he has never been better than he was in
Men Can't Jump. I mean, people forget, this was one of his
movies ever. He was still very much considered an unproven
commodity. A lot
of people at the time were thinking "Okay yeah, he was funny as a
bartender, but why would I want to go watch Woody from Cheers in a
movie? It looks stupid. He is just playing the
exact same character."
"Look at him, look at the backwards hat. Look at the socks
pulled up. He looks like a chump."
I have to say, one of my favorite things about White Men Can't Jump is
that the screenplay suckers the audience. Because you think
Woody is playing the same character. You THINK he is
playing the exact same small town simpleton that he played on Cheers.
And then you get to that first scene in the movie.
Men Can't Jump has one of the all time greatest scenes to open a movie.
Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson) shows up to the courts in
and he is dressed in full on white guy chump attire.
Backwards hat. Pulled up socks. A big
dumb goofy grin on his face. And he just
sits there and waits for somebody to notice him. He sits, and
waits. And of course, pretty soon the street ballers notice
dork with the backwards hat who thinks that he wants to play basketball.
So they call him onto the court.
And he winds up hustling everyone.
I said, it is easily one of my favorite opening scenes in any movie
ever. Woody hustles the street ballers just like Woody the
actor hustles the audience. Yeah, it turns out that
Billy Hoyle is a lot
more complex and intelligent than he likes to let on.
like Woody Harrelson is as an actor, if you actually pay attention to
him. White Men Can't Jump was the perfect movie for a guy who
played "Woody the idiot bartender" to show that he could transition
into a major comedic actor in Hollywood. A white street ball
hustler. Bet you don't see that a lot in movies. It
was the absolutely
perfect role for him.
Any scene with Woody and Wesley trying to one up one another is a
Woody Harrelson isn't the only good actor in the movie, of course.
Wesley Snipes (who people forget, was at one time a major
Hollywood star, and who is perfect in this) is great too, he is as good
And you can't talk about White Men Can't Jump without
Rosie Perez. Her role as Gloria the street girl who just
wind up on Jeopardy is one of those characters that you always remember.
Rosie Perez, minus that voice
And of course who can forget her specialty Jeopardy category of "Foods
that start with the letter Q?"
Gloria, who is forever studying the quahog and the quince
In summary, White Men Can't Jump is easily one of
my all time favorite sports movies. In fact I would probably
in my top 20 movies of the 90's. And I cannot tell you how
astonished I was when I read the IMDB and I realized how few people
there are out
there who agree with me. White Man Can't Jump, for whatever
has just sort of been forgotten. There is honestly
an entire generation out there who has never even heard of it.
for a movie that was this big a deal when it originally came out
(seriously, this movie was the talk of EVERYONE I knew in 1992, at the
time it was as big as Terminator 2 or Silence of the Lambs or
Wayne's World), well that is just amazing.
It's hard god damn work bein' this good
Again, White Men Can't Jump isn't really a sports movie. It
is a great comedy movie that just happens to have scenes that involve
sports. There is a big difference. Calling this a
movie is like calling Field of Dreams a sports movie. They
both should be remembered as being so much more than that.
White Men Can't Jump was absolutely
one of the funniest movies of the early 90's, not to mention one of the
most popular movies of the early 90's, and I am absolutely astonished
(not to mention a little sad)
that I actually have to even point that out.
I just assumed that everyone already knew and loved this movie.
favorite IMDB user reviews about White Men Can't Jump:
Woody and Wesley when dey
was cool - 12 March 2005
Hoosiers would get the win, if they ever polled film buffs and critics
asking what the best movie is revolving around basketball. Hoosiers,
the movie about a failing Indiana high school basketball team being led
to success by their new coach played by Gene Hackman and the drunken
assistant coach (Dennis Hooper) has enjoyed its fair share of the
spotlight. Granted the field of movies about basketball isn't nearly as
deep as say movies with plots concerning baseball or boxing, Hoosiers
still generally beats out what little competition there is.
in my opinion the best movie to ever capture the game of hoops is the
criminally underrated and underseen White Men Can't Jump, by director
Ron Shelton. Shelton also brought us the more popular baseball film
Bull Durham and the golf flick Tin Cup. But I'd argue White Men Can't
Jump is his centerpiece. The story revolves around two street court
b-ball hustlers. One new in town, smooth, and white (Woody Harrelson),
undoubtedly to his advantage. The other man, a black, a veteran of the
LA courts, and fast-talking (Wesley Snipes). After Harrelson hustles
Snipes the two form an unlikely partnership "ebony and ivory" but as
always it is on edge and lacks a required amount of trust.
a film that was released in the aftermath of the Rodney King beating
and the L.A. riots and just before the O.J. Simpson debacle, White Men
Can't Jump is surprisingly mature, witty, light hearted and open-minded
in its approach to the race issue. Ron Shelton's dialogue is amazingly
rapid fire and smart. It bites and certainly has a sting to it, but
it's all in good fun. The multi-flamboyant personalities on the outdoor
L.A. street courts hustler each other, crack "yo-mama" jokes with one
another, and try to look better than the other. This is the movie that
really put Wesley Snipes on the map and showed that Woody Harrelson was
far more than just another face in the "Cheers" ensemble. Both provide
excellent work in not only playing the characters but also learning how
to play basketball and talk like actual street hustlers. There's very
few standins here. Both Snipes and Harrelson learned to play the sport
as well as any actor could be expected to. Rosie Perez is good as
Harrelson's annoying and overbearing Puerto Rican girlfriend. If any
one word can describe White Men Can't Jump, that word is "fun." The
movie tackles serious issues like hustling, family, relationships,
race, life in poverty, and gambling debts. However if Robert Rossen's
pool hall film The Hustler presented the dark side of the life, Ron
Shelton's White Men Can't Jump shows the flip side of the coin. How
hustling can be fun and games.
courtship - 22 September
gritty comedy set in some tough LA neighborhoods about two basketball
hustlers, one white (Woody Harrelson), the other black (Wesley Snipes).
After hustling each other, they finally team up to play in a
tournament, where with a combination of skill and trash talk they
defeat the two guys who normally would have left them in the dust. The
trash talk gets silly at times, while the subplot of underworld
characters who are chasing Harrelson for an unpaid debt seems to be
there only to explain logically why he hustles in the first place, as
if he would do something else with his life. In any event, the games go
from Venice Beach to Watts, and the settings are as good as the stars.
Especially so are the cheap motels where Harrelson and girlfriend Rosie
Perez have to live, and the inner city apartment where Snipes and his
wife Tyra Ferrel call home, all of which adds up to a realistic slice
of life at the time, which now seems to look quite a bit different.
Intelligently written and well photographed, it has laid in the back of
the shelves at countless video stores waiting to be rediscovered.
not really about
basketball at all - 11 August 2009
movie that on the surface appears to be about sport - basketball- has a
much deeper undertone if you look closer, a movie that uses the sport
as a metaphor for the distinctions between blacks and whites in
America. I've always loved this movie, i first saw it many years ago
when i was about 14 and felt the wit and chemistry between harrelson
and snipes is top notch, now im older i see things i didn't see before.
Personally i feel you can take the movie in two ways. you either see it
as a buddy comedy or a movie which shows how blacks and whites view
each other. the way in which snipes is presented may be a cliché -
black man, ultra confident, feels that coz hes black hes better than
harrelson - but is this a cliché? most of the black guys in the movie
feel that harrelsons character billy is a 'chump', and are quick to put
him down. even the movies title 'white men cant jump' is a thinly
vieled reference to the viewpoint of black America. this is not a
racist perspective, its simply how it is, sidney (snipes) even gets
into a discussion with harrelson about jimmy hendrix, about his
apparently white drummer and how billy cant listen to hendrix, he can
only hear him. billy for his part, uses the fact that hes a white guy
to his advantage when he and snipes are hustling. these class colour
elements serve to make white men cant jump a far better movie than it
is given credit for, and is worth a better look if you think its just
another sports comedy.
It's hard being this good
- 21 February 2001
you will know of a sandwich shop somewhere in your neighborhood or the
city you live in that, when viewed from the outside, holds little
promise. There is no way to tell if they sell anything out of the
ordinary, to say it is properly decorated would be an insult to the
very craft of decorating, the menu is unclear and priced so low it
can't be any good and on top of that, the patron doesn't look very
inviting. But since it is cold and you're hungry, you go in and order
that Daily Special that with a grunt from aforesaid patron is prepared
for you. You sit back and take a bite. And then it happens. Wow. How
can something this lame looking be this good? This review comes rather
late in the day, given the fact that this movie was released already a
while back, but every time it's on TV I take a bite and marvel at how
bloody entertaining it is. This is no Oscar winner, no earth moving
experience, but just proof that an entertaining story might just come
careening around some corner you didn't expect it to come from. Don't
expect a social commentary on the black 'n white boundaries and life in
the ghetto or a senseless showcase of how entertaining great basketball
is to look at, although Snipes and Harrelson surely deliver. Be
prepared to be taken into the world of a group of characters that do
need a little effort to identify with. And see how from the fairly
uninviting premise of the blacktop of ghetto basketball courts, two
very cocksure basketball hustlers, mating the naive and the somewhat
worldwise, a girlfriend obsessed with Jeopardy and the ever so strange
ethics involved in wagering bets, a frankly heartwarming story is
squeezed, juggling fast-paced and often hilarious dialogue with
life-turning -nasty-tricks drama, that is so utterly recognizable that
at one point you wish you could hug Harrelson's character. Oh, and play
ball like Snipes. There is chemistry here people, both on the funny
and the dramatic side, and it's a shame they didn't manage to repeat it
on The Money Train. It is brought to the screen using unpretentious,
almost nonchalant directing showing a clear love for great ballplay.
Don't be deterred by Snipe's recent duds and Harrelson's somewhat
beyond-your-grasp acting choices. In the words of Snipe's character,
don't listen, but hear. Go rent this or switch to that channel and take
a bite. You won't regret it.
Now that's how you make a
film - 2 July 2003
film has got to be one of the best i've ever seen. It grabs you right
from the beginning when Billy and Sidney are first introduced to each
other in one of my favourite scenes of any film. It has many different
elements to it all brilliantly done comedy, drama, romance and of
course the best of them all - basketball. The trash-talking on the
courts is great to watch and no matter how many times I see it it still
makes me laugh especially when Billy is trying to psyche out his
opponents at the 'brotherhood' tournament. It's just one of those films
that you can watch over and over again.
I rarely give a film 10/10 but this one deserves it WATCH THIS FILM
your life will be better for it.
Watched it a hundred
times - 5 January 2008
chance I get I will watch this movie when it is broadcast. I just love
it, if not for the sport, but the characters and the scenery. I feel
like I am at a California Beach with them. I love the way Wesley and
Woody interact with each other and could not imagine any other actor
taking either of their places. I wish they would have made a WMCJ II.
Their skill in playing is quite remarkable and very entertaining. Their
lines that they hit off each other with immediate comebacks are very
witty. The admiration that they had for each other was kept very well
hidden until the director decided to let you get a glimpse of their
feelings. A great movie with great actors.
Still On Point After All
These Years - 11 October 2008
recently caught White Men Can't Jump and, after the joyful nostalgia
for my youth wore off, I couldn't help but feel sad that more than a
decade on, all the white/black misunderstandings and tensions remain.
For the film's sake, that's good, as the jokes and quick-witted dialog
remain relevant, but still....
White Men finds Woody Harrelson
and Wesley Snipes living hand-to-mouth as hustlers on the early 1990s
LA street ball scene. Knowing a good con when he sees it, Snipes's
Sidney Dean quickly convinces Harrelson's character to team up so they
can exploit the perennial myth that white men can't play basketball.
The relationship throws front-and-center each character's
(mis)perceptions about the other's race, the permanent divide between
men and women, and the crazy logic us dudes will often apply to justify
taking a risk "just one more time."
Great on-court scenes and
sharp-tongued wordplay between Snipes and Harrelson keeps the movie on
track. Definitely worth the time. Too bad it never helped spawn any
sort of real-life dialog on race and class in this country.
* My favorite trivia
about White Men Can't Jump:
* When Woody Harrelson was making this movie,
the producers hired Bob Lanier, the retired Detroit Pistons' center, as
a basketball coach. Harrelson, who had played some basketball in
college, was bragging to Lanier about what a great player he was.
Lanier invited Harrelson to play a little one-on-one. Harrelson later
described it as "the most embarrassing 15 minutes of my life".
to their basketball instructors, Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson
reached the skill level to be able to start for an NCAA Division III
Harrelson was significantly better at basketball than Wesley Snipes,
however, in the movie they are depicted as equals, though Harrelson's
character famously cannot dunk.
* Charlie Sheen was the first choice for the role of Billy Hoyle.
the film Woody Harrelson's character makes a reference to suspected
John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. In real life Harrelson's
own father had also been targeted as a possible accomplice in the
* David Duchovny was considered for the role of Billy Hoyle.
* My favorite quote from White
Men Can't Jump
I'll tell you what. Why don't we take all these bricks and build a
shelter for the homeless, so maybe your mother will have a place to
favorite scene in White Men Can't Jump:
There were a lot of great scenes in movies in the 90's. Very
few of them can beat the opening scene in White Men Can't Jump.
"I miss this shot, I walk away, still a chump.
YOU miss, and you've been beat well, not once, but twice.
By a slow. White. Geeky. Chump."
at the IMDB
Men Can't Jump
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