Reel to Real

‘Hustle’ has game

“Hustle” (US Rated R)

Cast: Adam Sandler, Juancho Hernangomez, Ben Foster, Queen Latifah

Genre: Comedy-Drama, Sports

Where to watch: Netflix

Dwight’s Rating: 2.5

If the widely (and some might say wildly) spaced out schedule of the ongoing NBA finals is sending you occasionally into premature basketball withdrawals – even before the long summer break – then the new Netflix film “Hustle” may be just what the coach ordered.

But you don’t have to be a basketball fan or even a sports lover to find this comedy-drama enjoyable.

It’s got a pretty simple storyline: Adam Sandler stars as a down-on-his-luck basketball scout who discovers an extraordinary street ball player abroad. He brings the phenom back to the US without his team’s approval, seeking to get him into the NBA.

That player is portrayed by current Utah Jazz power forward Juancho Hernangomez. The 6-foot nine-inch Spaniard is part of an all-star cast of NBA players, past and present, including cameos by legends Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Dirk Nowitzki, and superstars Trae Young with the Atlanta Hawks, and Luka Doncic with the Dallas Mavericks.

Even bigger roles go to current NBA analyst and former player Kenny Smith, and current Minnesota Timberwolves star (the number one pick in the 2020 NBA draft) Anthony Edwards, as the chief antagonist to Hernangomez’s character, Bo.

But lest you think this is merely Sandler surrounded by a bunch of athletes (and non-actors), no, there are some impressive thespians in the cast as well, including Oscar and Emmy winner Robert Duvall, Ben Foster (from 2016’s excellent Oscar-nominated “Hell or High Water”, and 2018’s “Leave No Trace”), and comedian Heidi Gardner (“Saturday Night Live”).

There’s also Oscar-nominee Queen Latifah, who plays Sandler’s wife. And while that pairing might sound a little unusual, the two are fun to watch together and actually have pretty decent chemistry.

“Chemistry” is quite an interesting word. As Sandler seems to have chemistry with everyone. And loads of charm and charisma too! He has settled into such a suave and sophisticated performer that everything just seems to come to him naturally. He’s got most of the movie’s humorous lines, but they’re delivered so effortlessly, it’s like he’s not even acting.

Hernangomez also possibly has a future once he’s done with the basketball thing, even though his height may be a challenge for most of his future costars.

While “Hustle” offers few surprises in the way it goes about telling its story, it is a good, people-pleasing tale, and potentially inspiring to many (including non-athletes) on so many levels. As such, during these next few months until the new season begins in October, perhaps some current NBA players who couldn’t make it to the postseason or struggled through the playoffs could learn a lesson or two with regular monthly viewings.

• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.

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Dwight Strachan

Dwight is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff.

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