On the 'Wright' track: Queen Latifah & Common manage to sink a long shot

The New Jersey Nets reach the NBA conference finals in "Just Wright," so it goes without saying the movie is a ludicrous fantasy.

Not one aimed at fans of pro basketball, though. It's meant to appeal to women - "Wright" is the latest variation on the Cinderella story, this one featuring Queen Latifah as a plus-sized Nets fan who falls for a star player (Common), then watches her favored, gold-digging stepsister (Paula Patton) steal him away.

"Just Wright" makes no apology for its glass-slipper mentality. In fact, Common's character is referred to repeatedly as a "prince," just so there's no chance you miss the implication.

All of which may cause feminists to roll their eyes and ask, is this progress?

Well, yes, kind of. In "Pretty Woman," an earlier update of the myth, Cinderella was a hooker. Queen Latifah's character is a working girl in a more honorable sense of the word. She plays Leslie, a caring, industrious physical therapist who lives for two things - her job and the New Jersey Nets.

Her interests merge when she meets all-star point guard Scott (Common) and befriends him, bonding over basketball and jazz, a turn of events that astounds her predatory, star-hungry stepsister, who flattens poor Leslie on her way to wrangling an engagement ring from Scott.

Then Scott tears a ligament, and Leslie signs on to be a full-time, live-in therapist, nursing and willing him back to health as fair-weather friends and girlfriends and fiancées wander out of his life.

As goofy and predictable as the movie is, this is an evolutionary leap forward. For one thing, Cinderella's pumpkin is a Ford Mustang. For another, Cinderella is a savvy career girl who uses her time with Scott to leverage a career as an NBA trainer - she even consults with Elton Brand and considers a job with the 76ers!

"Just Wright" also bypasses the cliché of romantic destiny (thank heaven) and makes a real attempt to show how affection and love might grow over time even between two unlikely partners.

Queen Latifah, of course, is tailor-made for this role and has an easy time with it. "Wright" is much more of a weight-class test for Common, who's had small parts as menacing heavies and here makes the leap to leading man.

Results are mixed. He has the look, but his character adheres so strictly to standards of Perfect Guy dreamboat - a down-to-earth millionaire who does charity work and loves his mama - that he's just not that interesting. More wattage might have helped.

"Just Wright" tries to gets its star power from a striking array of cameos. Brand has a speaking role, as do Dwight Howard and Dwayne Wade, and about a thousand on-air personalities from ESPN, who say "yes" to movie roles the way waitresses say "yes" to invitations from Tiger Woods to climb into his Escalade.

Produced by Debra Martin Chase, Queen Latifah, Shakim Compere, directed by Sanaa Harmi, written by Michael Elliot, music by Wendy Melvoin, distributed by Fox Searchlight.


Just Wright

Directed by Sanaa Hamri. With Ruby Feliciano, Pam Grier, Phylicia Rashad, James Pickens Jr., Mehcad Brooks, Paula Patton, Michael Landes, Kevin Navayne, Common, Queen Latifah. Distributed by 20th Century Fox.

Parent's guide: PG (for some suggestive material and brief language).