Queen Latifah shines in likable romantic comedy ‘Just Wright’

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, May 13, 2010 1:55pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

The first thing that needs to be said about “Just Wright” is that whoever had the idea of casting Pam Grier as Queen Latifah’s mother deserves a raise: What fun to imagine the diva of 1970s blaxploitation pictures parenting the current multi-media mogul Latifah.

The two queens only share a few scenes in “Just Wright,” which is otherwise given over to a formulaic but likable tale of a physical therapist and a basketball player. Queen Latifah plays the physical therapist, in case you’re wondering.

Her character, Leslie, is an always-a-bridesmaid-never-the-bride type. She’s out-dazzled by her god-sister, Morgan (Paula Patton), a beauty who takes a determined approach to romantic success.

Morgan’s got her sights set on wedding an NBA player and sitting in the wives’ section at games, which is her idea of making it big. When she works her magic on a New Jersey Nets superstar named Scott McKnight (Common), he can hardly resist.

But a knee injury sidelines him. Hey, did somebody need a physical therapist? If only we knew someone who could work on his anterior cruciate ligament while slowly working her way into his heart. …

All right, you see where this is going. And there isn’t much in director Sanaa (“Something New”) Hamri’s film to polish up the material — that job is mostly left up to the actors, who come up with a handful of pleasing scenes along the way.

Along with a few NBA stars doing cameo bits (Rashard Lewis and Dwyane Wade among them), the movie gives a comic bad-girl role to Paula Patton, who made a sweet impression in “Precious,” among other titles.

Patton will be getting more hisses in movie theaters this weekend than the villain in “Robin Hood,” mostly because everybody will be rooting for Queen Latifah.

Latifah’s performance has her usual warmth, although there are fewer opportunities for the kind of sassy comedy she specializes in. Her scenes with co-star Common are interesting, because they seem like a couple of grown-ups — a rare thing in the romcom world.

Common, who has quietly been appearing in bigger roles in films (including “Terminator Salvation” and “Date Night”), has a laserlike focus and a serious manner. If only his character weren’t such a paragon of virtue: He’s got a giant mansion but is embarrassed by it, he does charity work, he plays a mean jazz piano … and he dreams of spending his entire career with the New Jersey Nets.

Now that’s going too far. I know this movie is meant to be a romantic fairy tale, but we’ve got to draw the line somewhere.

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