“Another Middle Age Movie Review with another Netflix review of another Sandler movie,” you mumble to yourself as despair takes hold and you die a little bit inside.
We get it, dear reader. I feel it too. As someone who wants to love Adam Sandler movies and some quality entertainment from Netflix, I’ve been let down more than Charlie Brown when Lucy pulls the football.
Well, prepare to be shocked. Hustle is a very, very pleasant surprise. It is a fun, engaging movie that prove that Sandler and Netflix can do great things.
Sandler, of Saturday Night Live fame made a name for himself as the googly gaw gaw mouthed man-child comedian. His early post-SNL movies like Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer and the really sweet Fifty First Dates were top notch comedies if you didn’t want to consume and brain juice.
But then the schtick got old. Then Sandler got old. Then inexplicably, Netflix signed him up for a series of movies. What he produced for them was a mixed bag of hard-to watch comedies (Ridiculous Six), noble attempts (The Do Over, The Week Of) and the occasional gem.
To me, Adam Sandler shines brightest when he takes on semi-serious material. He’s a good non-comedy actor with solid chops (Spanglish, Funny People, Punch Drunk Love).
Which brings us to Hustle. Sure it helps to go in with low expectations, but you will leave entertained and with new hope for Netflix’s movie making ability.
Hustle is a sports underdog story you’ve seen many times – from Rocky to Searching for Bobby Fischer. This particular variation is the recruiter and the talented yet challenged new rookie. It’s a ballsy move considering the writers, Taylor Materne and Will Fetters, seem to borrow quite a bit from Jerry Maguire.
Sandler plays Stanley Sugarman, a hard-driven, honest talent scout. He himself was a player but his character flaw caused him to get injured and forever off the court.
He works for the Philadelphia 76ers directly for the owner, Rex Merrick played by the legendary Robert Duvall. Their relationship is very father-son, which is good, because Merrick’s real son, Vince is a privileged douche.
As in Jerry Maguire, the seemly underside of the business of big league sports, causes all sorts of problems for Sugarman who poured his life and heart into his job. Vince undermines him at every turn even to the detriment of the team.
The core of the story is Bo Cruz, the young and dirt poor but diamond-in-the-rough recruit that Sugarman finds in a game on the streets of Spain.
Cruz is a single dad who lives with his mother in Spain. Sugarman must help develop Cruz as a player and help him overcome his limitations both athletically and personally. And along the way, Sugerman may overcome his.
We will end it here because we’re heading for spoiler territory and I bet, if you really put your head into it, you can figure out the rest.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t call out Queen Latifah’s role as Teresa Sugarman, Stanley’s wife. She is a supportive but by no means submissive wife. Latifah very capably adds love and depth to the movie, almost single-handedly.
If you’re a basketball fan – especially a 76ers one, there’s plenty of cameos and insider stuff going on too. Sadly, that star power was lost on me. I think I saw Dr. Julius who must have worked at Penn Medicine or something.
This is definitely the best Middle Age Movie Review I’ve ever given to Netflix. This movie is a winner and if I spent $29 for two tickets and a small cup of popcorn it would have been worth it.