Remember the days when Martin Lawrence was a star worth talking about, when all his movies were relative hits and he started to pull in $20 million a flick? Yeah, neither do we — but as hard as it is to believe, that was only about three years ago. While fellow “Bad Boy” Will Smith went on to become one of Hollywood’s most coveted talents and fellow actor-comedian Jamie Foxx won an Oscar, Lawrence became largely irrelevant, surfacing only occasionally with repetitive, mildly offensive and progressively less funny projects. Now here is the family-friendly “Rebound,” which, though it might serve as a mildly amusing diversion for the tykes, does absolutely nothing for the star’s flailing career.
The film follows Roy McCormick (Lawrence), a nobody from the ghetto who made it big in basketball as a coach. Unable to deal with the responsibilities of success, he goes from the top coach in college basketball to nearly getting a lifetime ban for his on-court antics. To gain back his job, he must prove himself once more and has to do it in the “cut-throat middle school division” — yes, that’s a direct quote — at the school where his basketball dream began. In guiding a team of misfits to the top, Coach Roy inevitably finds himself and remembers once again his love for the game.
A kids/sports movie such as this one is, for all intents and purposes, doomed from the start. No matter what course it chooses, the final outcome, whether the underdogs become champions or lose in heart-breaking fashion, will seem like it’s been done before. Which, of course, is because it has been done before. Parents will be left to wonder how exactly the story here is different from better genre films like “Little Giants” or “The Mighty Ducks.”
As such, “Rebound” suffers the most because it’s just too damn archetypal. All the normal underdogs-overcoming-all-odds elements are here. There’s a self-centered coach who rediscovers himself; there’s an unguided group of kids who look inside themselves and find greatness; there’s a geek who makes the 11th hour, game-defining play to achieve immortality; there’s even the usual coach-and-star-player’s-mother romance.
Lawrence pulls out every trick in his hackneyed book (the smooth walk, the crazy outburst, the mad-crazy lingo), but just can’t get the stale and underdeveloped plot to really take off. The film opens with several sequences that are all-too predictable and seem to never end. Though it eventually picks up steam by the finish (and ends brilliantly jamming to “Eye of the Tiger,” originally from a much better underdog film), it simply is too slow and labored to be entertaining.
The supporting cast is surprisingly lame, considering that the usually super-peppy Megan Mullally (TV’s “Will and Grace”) and the fantastically mercurial Horatio Sanz (TV’s “Saturday Night Live”) are the headliners. Mullally is too held back and unable to unleash any of her hilarious quirks under the restrictive script while Sanz, unable to fake Korean accents or sing the usual SNL songs, feels out of place. The rest, made up of washed-up former TV stars (there‘s at least three who appeared on “Seinfeld” and one from “The Steve Harvey Show”) are not even worth mentioning, with the exception of Patrick Warburton (TV’s “Seinfeld”).
Unfortunately for Lawrence, the film only helps audiences to forget that he was once a very funny comedian when given the chance to truly run free. He just is not the type of actor who can thrive in a PG film, so perhaps his next one, the sequel to the relatively successful “Big Momma’s House,” will get him on track again. Probably not, but at least he’ll have something to talk about next time he runs into Will and Jada.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars