Release Date:  August 22, 2008
Rating:  PG (for some thematic elements, mild language and brief rude humor)
Genre:  Sports/Drama
Run Time:  94 min.
Director:  Fred Durst
Actors:  Ice Cube, Keke Palmer, Tasha Smith, Dash Mihok, Matt Craven, Miles Chandler, Dean Delray, Garrett Morris

If someone would’ve told me that rapper Ice Cube and Limp Bizkit front man Fred Durst—two artists known for their particularly unsavory language and edgy subject matter in their songs’ lyrics—would be teaming up for an inspirational, family-friendly movie, I wouldn’t have believed them.

But believe it or not, here they are in the role of lead actor and director respectively in The Longshots, a movie based on the true story of Jasmine Plummer, the first girl to ever play Pop Warner football.

Played with verve and style by Akeelah and the Bee lead actress Keke Palmer, Jasmine is an outsider in the rather depressing town of Minden, Illinois. After Jasmine’s dad split from town five years ago, her mom (Tasha Smith) is stuck working long hours at the local diner. So while Mom makes a living, Jasmine finds solace in her studies and tries to blend in with the rest of her classmates the best that she can. After all, there’s nothing worse than getting picked on by all the mean kids, and there are plenty of them for Jasmine to contend with at her school.

If a bum life at home in a bum town wasn’t bad enough, Jasmine isn’t exactly outgoing and refuses to sign up for any extra-curricular activities to make friends. Since she’s too young to be alone once the school day has ended, her Mom is forced to hire a babysitter. And when Jasmine’s mom is completely out of options? Well, that’s when Jasmine’s uncle (Ice Cube) enters the picture.

Turns out, her uncle has a few issues of his own. Not only has he not worked anywhere in years, but he seldom bathes and loves to sip way too much beer in the stands of Minden Field, the place where his life was once promising. See, back in the day, he was a bonafide football star. Because he can’t exactly relive his glory days, he’s decided on the next best thing—introducing his niece to the game he loves.

Of course, as it turns out, Jasmine is a natural at throwing the pigskin. Even if she’d rather be a model like Tyra Banks.

And while the rest of the story is fairly predictable (especially for those who’ve watched a steady diet of sports movies like Rudy, The Mighty Ducks and Rookie of the Year over the years), The Longshots still largely succeeds because of charming, inspired performances from Palmer and Ice Cube and the fact that it’s actually based on a true story. While some of the details are definitely Hollywood-ized for the sake of storytelling, it’s still cool to know that Jasmine was a real person who led her team to the Pop Warner version of the Super Bowl.

Unfortunately, Durst’s directing isn’t nearly as polished or poised, but it doesn’t necessarily detract from the end result, which means he may get better with a little more practice. This is his debut, after all.

Thankfully, the script doesn’t feel nearly as amateurish. Seldom segueing into too sappy of territory (I mean this is a sports movie, that’s part and parcel of the genre), The Longshots is also sprinkled with a slew of positive messages the family crowd will appreciate. In addition to the time-honored tradition of encouraging kids that “they can be anything they want to be as long as they work hard and keep the faith,” there’s also a strong emphasis on the importance of family, sportsmanship and pride in your community—a welcome message that never goes out of style.
 
CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Jasmine’s uncle clearly overindulges in alcohol.
  • Language/Profanity:  There are a couple of expletives and a couple of instances where the Lord’s name is taken in vain. There’s also some mild scatological humor.
  • Sex/Nudity:  None.
  • Violence:  There’s some sports-related violence.



Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in St. Paul, Minn., she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog

For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.