2006-07-10 18:14


Roy McCormick (Martin Lawrence) was once the most talented and respected coach in college basketball. But, lately, success has gone to his head and he seems to care more about photo shoots and endorsements than coaching his team. Then, in the middle of a key game, his legendary temper gets the better of him and he is banned from the league. However he does have one last chance to he can change his ways - and that chance turns out to be coaching a team of hapless 13-year-olds at his old school - the Mount Vernon Junior High School "Smelters".


If you think the plot of Rebound sounds familiar, you aren't alone. This movie has been made and remade so many times with so many different sports (curling anyone?) you have to wonder if it shouldn't be mandatorily retired, with a shotgun if at all possible.

Not that remakes (and even remakes of remakes) can't be good, or at least entertaining. Certain material lends itself to nearly endless re-interpretation (Shakespeare is an obvious example) though that's dependant on the richness of the original source. But the material on which Rebound is based has never been anything more than mediocre. It's most obvious ancestor, 1976's The Bad News Bears, is revered as a classic, but this is almost entirely due to the incomparable Walter Matthau. The story itself is a dumb as a bag of hammers, and 30 years plus hundreds of bad copies has done nothing to improve it.

Still, many of the best films in history are essentially dumb scripts that were transmuted by a talented cast and crew (King Kong anyone?). Sadly this is neither the cast nor crew to lift the material out of the doldrums. In his brief career director Steve Carr has wowed viewers which such treats as Next Friday (oh my sides) and Dr. Dolittle 2 (when will the laughter end?). In fact, having directed only one non-sequel in his tenure (Daddy Day Care), Carr may be perfect for what is essentially a sequel to every generic underdog sports comedy (with kids) ever made.

As for Martin Lawrence's brand of watered-down, Eddie-Murphy-derived shtick, his inspiration has been on the wane since Bad Boys. Sure he still puts bums on seats and pleases the crowds, but his days as truly inspiring comedian are long gone. Even his old daring, foul-mouthed insouciance has been usurped by a fumbling eagerness to please.

And yet, while everything points to Rebound being one of the most irritating and unwatchable rehashes of the year, it somehow manages to come off as warm, fuzzy and even (briefly and fitfully) enjoyable. This is more due to absences than presences. There is the absence of over acting by Lawrence, the absence of toilet humour and tiresome slapstick set pieces, the absence of Ritalin fuelled Hollywood brats competing for position of "most loveable tyke". Though the child actors were unmistakably chosen on looks rather than talent (the goofier the better), they actually manage to come across as sincere, or at the very least innocuous.

Perhaps the film's secret is that it sticks to the basics. It never even thinks of raising the bar, and settles snugly into its well-feathered nest without a care in the world. There's something oddly attractive about a film that doesn't care if you like it or not. The brazenness with which it embraces its mediocrity makes Rebound oddly comforting, like home made chocolate milk. You know it's not nutritious, or exciting but you don't care. So, by all means, go see Rebound. Just don't go in their expecting Chateau Margaux, or even a fudge ripple sundae.

- Alistair Fairweather

In Rebound Martin Lawrence plays a big-deal basketball coach who's forced to turn a team of loser kids into champions. Haven't we heard this somewhere before?

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