What were you doing in 1992? I was just starting high school in 1992. And in Spring 1992, White Men Can’t Jump was released. It tells a story of Billy Hoyle, a white boy who goes to California to escape some money troubles. He meets Sidney Dean during a hustle, and two create a partnership to make some money. When Sidney back-stabs Billy, things get confrontational. That’s when their ladies get involved and convince them to work together to win a big tournament worth $5,000 in winnings.
Staring: Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson, Rosie Perez
Director: Ron Shelton
Genre: Comedy, Sports
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox
In Theaters: March 27, 1992
On Video: August 14, 2001
What I Like About It
White Men Can’t Jump is a great classic sports comedy. Wesley Snipes is charismatic, athletic and so incredibly good at getting under peoples skin. Woody Harrelson is just damned funny. I also really like all of the symbols of the 80’s in this, such as all the neon, the Nike Pump shoes, the “yo Momma” jokes and the endless one-liners.
“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 stay.”
I like the struggling dynamic between Billy (Woody Harrelson) and Gloria (Rosie Perez) too. These two are a couple that is struggling to make it work. Clearly things are volatile because whenever Billy screws up and looses money, she leaves. But Gloria loves him and will always come back.
“What, you still throwing up bricks? What is this, a Masons convention?”
I like when Gloria makes it onto Jeopardy. She’s paired up with a rocket scientist and a Dr, and the former disco queen from Jersey completely schools them. Gloria might be Puerto Rican, she might be a little ball of energy, she might have an incredibly obnoxious voice, but the girl is very, very smart.
“Teammates can’t hustle each other.”
I like how Billy and Sidney, two completely different people with different lifestyles, priorities and backgrounds, come together through one universal bond, basketball. They may not see eye to eye, they certainly don’t always get along, but at the end of the day, their love for basketball is the one thing that makes them an amazing team together. I also like near the end when Billy proves that white men CAN jump and Sidney even embraces him for it, good sportsmanship.
What I Didn’t Like About It
I didn’t like all of the racial slurs, however with a movie like this, it would be expected. White Men Can’t Jump is loaded with racial comments left and right. Now at the time in the early 90’s, racial slurs and jokes were not quite as critical as they are in today’s day and age. Back then, most of the comments they were making were street court trash talking; 90% nothing taken seriously, but the other 10% would result in someone getting stabbed or shot.
“Sometimes when 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.”
I don’t like that in the end that Gloria doesn’t ultimately come back. I feel for sake of the story, that was a big mistake. It felt like a big hole in the plot was left open. Granted, I understand that her not coming back was a lesson taught to Billy, he took a gamble and even though he won money, he lost in the end because the gamble itself is what did the most damage, not whether he won or lost.
All in All
White Men Can’t Jump is a classic sports movie from the early 90’s. Aside from the racial slurs, this is a great movie about two opposite men coming together for a greater good. Director Ron Shelton did a great job of capturing the basketball culture of the 90’s, the dynamics, the intricacies, the politics and the passion. If you can get past all the bad hair, brightly colored clothes and Rosie Perez’s irritating voice, White Men Can’t Jump is a great flick.
Be sure to post a comment of what you thought about #WhiteMenCantJump