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" I can’t believe Liberace was gay "
— Mike Myers, Austin Powers

MRQE Top Critic

The East

The East emerges as an exciting piece of filmmaking from the independent scene’s hott —Matt Anderson (review...)

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Predictable as it is glossy, the rom-com Just Wright has at least two things going for it: Queen Latifah’s undeniable spark and the presence of a variety of real-life NBA stars including Dwight Howard and Dwayne Wade.

The movie centers on Leslie (Latifah), a physical therapist who — thanks to a conniving friend (Paula Patton) — lands a job helping to rehabilitate an injured NBA star, played by the rapper Common. Basketball fans immediately will recognize the movie as pure fantasy because, among other things, it imagines that the woeful New Jersey Nets are playing for an Eastern Conference title.

Patton, last seen as a caring teacher in Precious: based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, is stuck playing an annoyingly obvious character who wants to marry an NBA star so that she can live the good life. Someone might as well have stamped the words “Gold Digger” on her forehead.Latifah’s Leslie is a hard-core Nets fan, but unlike Patton’s character, she’s “real;” i.e., she’s the kind of woman guys tend to choose as friends rather than love interests.

Assembled with the requisite glow by director Sanaa Hamri, Just Wright follows a predictable arc, but offsets its groan-inducing tendencies with a likable, down-to-earth performance from Latifah. Common, who evidently did his own basketball scenes, seems a trifle uncomfortable at times, and although he’s seen only briefly, Orlando Magic Star Howard proves that he has big-screen charisma.

Sports fans may be lured by the gaggle of NBA stars and ESPN broadcasters who appear as themselves, but I’m not sure guys will embrace this updated take on Cinderella once they’re drawn into theaters.