Friday, May 14, 2010

Just Wright: Just OK

Posted By on Fri, May 14, 2010 at 2:23 PM


By Matt Brunson



STARS Queen Latifah, Common

From Frampton to 50 Cent, the silver screen has been littered with successful musicians who wrongly believe they have what it takes to make it as an acclaimed actor. Queen Latifah, of course, has long proven herself to be one of the keepers, meaning that Just Wright needed to function as the coming-out party for her co-star (and fellow rapper) Common. But his performance turns out to be merely OK, easily allowing Latifah to retain her royal standing.

On par with the week's other imagination-free rom-com, Letters to Juliet, this one borrows from the Cinderella and Ugly Duckling playbooks to relate the tale of Leslie Wright (the Queen herself), a physical therapist who's used to seeing her best friend Morgan (Paula Patton) nab all the men while she's relegated to the status of the cool lady that guys like to hang out with but not date. This pattern continues when both women meet New Jersey Nets star Scott McKnight (Common), who connects with Leslie but ends up dating the gold-digging Morgan, the latter dreaming of nothing but becoming an NBA trophy wife. But after Scott suffers a potentially career-ending injury to his knee, Leslie steps up with the determination to get the hoops star back on his feet before the playoffs.

This generic trifle, with a script that was obviously constructed and spit out by a computer — hold on, my mistake; the press notes credit it to one Michael Elliot — at least benefits from a typically ingratiating performance by Latifah. But a love story needs two sides to work — and a love triangle, three — and Common, until now only cast in small roles (he was last seen as a corrupt cop in Date Night), is simply unable to generate any chemistry with his co-stars: Awkward enough in the scenes in which he's not wooing the ladies, he's even more ill-at-ease opposite either Latifah or Patton. Certainly, Common possesses the demeanor and good looks of a leading man, but until he brushes up those acting chops, he won't ever be much more than just average.

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