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There’s a saying that goes musicians and actors want to be athletes, and athletes want to be musicians and actors. Call it what you may; a mutual respect for each others’ crafts or the need to test one’s self. But when that person ventures into the other crafts, the results are usually forgettable. We see how entertainers perform in celebrity basketball games. The basketball players in those games, almost always retired players, have to play at 50% just to make the game even a little bit enjoyable. Basketball players are born to play basketball. While some try other ventures, they rarely achieve the success known to them on the basketball court. When it comes to music, many ball players have tried, but only two have had any form of success: Wayman Tisdale, who went on to become a world renowned bass player, and Shaquille O’Neal, who, regardless of what you think of his skills as a rapper, released 4 studio albums, with one going gold, and another going platinum.
When it comes to basketball players and acting, the list of successes is even smaller. The greatest role for an athlete is as an athlete, especially if they are playing themselves. If you take them outside of that element, the results are extremely varied with a very high “hit or miss” potential. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did a great job as co-pilot Roger Murdock on Airplane. John Salley did a good job in his small role as Fletcher, the computer hacker, on the two Bad Boys films. Outside of those two roles, I can’t really think of a successful acting venture for a basketball player that does not involve dribbling a basketball.
Now, if the role involves playing a little basketball, then the athlete can go ahead and ease into his comfort zone. Shaq’s best acting role was as Neon Boudeaux, the “out-of-nowhere” star recruit in the movie ‘Blue Chips’. Honestly, though, that’s not really saying much when compared to such classics as ‘Kazaam’ and ‘Steel’, but you get the picture. When an athlete is able to do the thing that comes naturally to them, it makes the unnatural thing (acting) come that much easier. So when I heard that Kevin Durant was starring in his own movie, I was a little worried to say the least. He wasn’t a big personality like Shaq was in his heyday, and his advertisement portfolio, while growing, wasn’t necessarily anything that would indicate we had a burgeoning thespian on our hands. Also, when I heard the synopsis of the film, basically ‘Like Mike, part 8,’ I was a bit concerned that the cheesiness factor would be too much.
With all that said, I thought this would be a good RedBox rental in a couple of months. Then, out of the (Thunder) blue, my ticket rep called me asking if I wanted to attend the red carpet premiere of KD’s movie. Like any good Hollywood socialite, I told him I would have to check my schedule. Two seconds later, I told him I would go, and I would be bringing 5 guests with me (my entourage).
So, when the day came, we all got suited up and made our way to the premiere. We got there about an hour and a half early and watched as they vacuumed the red carpet. I vacuum my carpet all the time, but this was a RED carpet. Awesome, to say the least. We finally got our tickets and walked into the theatre, on the newly vacuumed red carpet. After getting our popcorn and drinks, we waited for the VIP’s to arrive.
First through the red carpet was the always lovable Rumble, in a tux only a bison could wear. He, of course, had two Thunder girls draped on his arms. When I die, I want to come back as a hooved mascot. They get all the perks. Next up, it was the always exquisite Wanda Pratt, who rocked her aquamarine dress to a tee. “You go girl!” was all I could think in my mind. Mama Durant basically became part of the family as she bear hugged my sister twice on her walk down the red carpet. At that very moment, I turned around and legendary Oklahoma Sooners coach Barry Switzer was behind me about to walk into the theatre.
Co-star Taylor Gray was the next one through the red carpet. I didn’t really know who he was, but all the pre-teen girls knew who he was. So, I figured he was somebody in the film. Then, the love child of Marty McFly and Breckin Meyer walked through the red carpet. Its always good to see Coach Scott Brooks in his offseason’s best, hair and beard both grown out. Finally, the star of the film came through. Kevin Durant looked dashing as ever in his brownish checkered vest and black undershirt, completely owning the red carpet. After a small introduction by the director of the film, it was finally time to see some movie magic.
Without giving too much away in this review, I initially went into the film wondering how many cringe-worthy, cheesy moments there would be in the film. Brian (Taylor Gray) is a high school student who has aspirations of playing basketball, but is only good enough to be the water boy on the team. A huge fan of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Brian gets a chance to shoot a half court shot at halftime of a game. His shot falls way short, hitting Rumble on the head, and he ends up in the tunnel with Kevin Durant, who sympathizes with the kid and signs a ball for him. As he is handing the ball to Brian, his basketball skills are transferred to Brian in a weird cosmic mix up. The teenager ends up joining the basketball team and becoming its star, while Durant struggles with having the skills of a water boy.
Through his struggles, Durant’s agent, Alan (Brandon T. Jackson), keeps looking for reasons and solutions to Durant’s dismal slump. He finally sees a mirror of Durant’s talent in this scrawny little high school kid and realizes that Durant’s talent must have been stolen. Alan approaches Brian and levels with him about his new found talent. Brian soon realizes that Alan is right and must decide whether he wants to continue with his new found fame or do the right thing and find a way to return Durant’s talents back.
Are there some corny moments in his film? Of course. But, to my surprise, there weren’t any cringe-worthy, “I’m too old for this crap” moments. The surprising comedic performances of Jim Belushi, as the coach of the high school team, and Doc Shaw, as Brian’s best friend, provide enough comedy to keep you laughing out loud from time to time. Taylor Gray actually carries the movie pretty well as the lead actor, and Kevin Durant does a good job as Kevin Durant. John Whitesell, the director, does a good job of showing off Durant’s strength (basketball ability), while not trying to overdo his still burgeoning acting ability.
For what I was expecting, this movie turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It had a good flow to it and didn’t lull you in the middle of the movie. My kids, 7 and 5 years old, loved it, and it held their interest throughout the entire movie. A solid ‘B’ in my book and a highly recommendable family movie.Now That's Thunder Basketball