He Got Game (1998)

RATING: 3/5

DIRECTOR: Spike Lee

Films that don’t create wealth at the box office must be bad. This film back in 1998 went unnoticed and ended up gathering cobwebs on the shelves of the local video store.  Spike Lee’s film fell short at the box office not generating enough money against its 25 million dollar budget.

The film isn’t bad. It’s simply disregarded because it didn’t stay in cinemas long enough. Some fans of Denzel Washington and director Spike Lee don’t give credit where credit’s due but it’s now time.

“He Got Game” is nearly twenty years old and its plot revolves around the father and son relationship of Jake Shuttlesworth (Washington) and his son Jesus ( Allen). Jake is serving time for killing his wife but is released on temporary parole by the Warden if he can convince his son to play basketball for the Governor’s alma mata Big State University.  This will give Jake a reduced prison sentence. Jesus is the most sought after high school player that every college wants. Universities are literally throwing money at Jesus saying “This will be the most important decision of your life.” Voices are everywhere, and Jesus just wants to escape from them and try figuring out his life on his terms. He wants to be alone.

When Denzel’s character Jake shows up on the basketball court, he ain’t wanted by his son no more. Jake’s time restricted by  parole and struggles to meet his son just to talk business. His son has daddy issues and is full of resentment.

Denzel plays Jake as a strong military coach who is so focused on discipline and nothing more. It is easy why Jesus says he doesn’t have a father no more.

Jake at one point says

” I pray you understand why I pushed you so hard! It was only to get you to that next level, Son. I mean, you’s the first Shuttlesworth that’s ever gonna make it out of these projects, and I was the one who who put the ball in your hand, Son! I put the ball in your crib!”

he got game father son

The film is emotionally involving between all main characters. Father and son themes are explored and flashback scenes, and slow motion scenes create feelings of sentimentality that the movie aims for and succeeds in.

I was disappointed that the film tries to tell too many stories within it. It wants you to be involved with all characters and all their character arcs. Spike Lee directs films that call it as it is which is why he has his followers. In this film, if he refined the supporting characters a tad then it would have reduced the time by ten minutes and focused  the story all the more on Jesus’ journey with his key decision to make.

 

 

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