Movie Review: ‘He Got Game’ gets assist from humor

by Laura Czingula
Editor in Chief

For high school students, playing basketball in college or in the NBA is a dream that may or may not come true. However, in Spike Lee’s new movie, “He Got Game,” high school standout Jesus Shuttlesworth has the choice of playing where ever he chooses.

Jesus is portrayed by Milwaukee Bucks guard Ray Allen, who makes his acting debut.

The 22-year-old Allen plays a senior from Lincoln High School in Coney Island who has the whole world wondering where he will decide to continue his collegiate career as a basketball player-even the governor, which is where Academy Award winner Denzel Washington (“Fallen,” “Courage Under Fire”) comes in.

Washington plays Jesus’ father, James Shuttlesworth, who has been in prison six years for murdering his wife, whom he loved very much, in a freak accident. The governor of the state is a huge basketball fan and promises James that if he gets his son Jesus to sign with Big State University (the governors alma mater), James’ sentence would be shortened. Sounds easy enough, huh?

Well it is not. James and his son Jesus are not on the best of terms. Jesus holds a huge grudge over what happened to his mother and acts as though he is not his father, which leads to some problems for James and his shortened sentence.

James has a week before the college letters of intent are to be signed to influence his son to sign with Big State. He is periodically watched over by detectives while he stays in a dumpy hotel filled with prostitutes.

On his first day of freedom in six years, James waits for his only daughter, Mary (Zelda Hams), to get out of junior high school. As he approaches her, she embraces him with a big hug asking him when he was released.

Right away the viewer realizes that James is a good father that just made a big mistake. He meant no harm with what he did and loves his children dearly.

However, Jesus does not feel the same way about his father as his younger sister, whom he takes care of, does. He acts as though he is a selfish boy who never had any guidance whenever his father comes around. Jesus acts as though he does not care about his father and turns his back on him almost every time he runs into him, making the movie viewer so angry at times for refusing to acknowledge his father.

After a few run-ins with his son, James finally asks Jesus the big question of whether or not he will do his father a favor and pick Big State as his school. James cons him into playing him one-on-one and whoever wins makes the decision.

Washington does a superb job in the father role. He brings the movie alive with his sarcastic humor and wisecracks. He brings the viewers at their hands and knees wanting to help him out in his one week of freedom that the governor gave him to get his son to sign with Big State.

This ambitious and absorbing film is, surprisingly, very funny and not at all what is probably expected. It is a deep touching film about a father and son relationship and the pressures that one goes through when trying to decide on which school to attend.

Spike Lee does a wonderful job at directing “He Got Game.” He got the viewers more involved with what is going on through flashback scenes, which really explains the past of the characters.

True to Lee’s nature, “He Got Game” is a real movie, meaning it has real life situations with real life commentary. Things that are said in this film would not be expected at all. It is not like watching a movie, it is like watching someone’s life. Things happen in the movie which makes the viewer shout for joy or scream in anger.

“He Got Game,” which opens today in general release, is a must see movie.

Laura Czingula, Sports Editor
Laura Czingula

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