SPIKE LEE AND RAY ALLEN SHOW THEY BOTH GOT GAME IN FILM
Published May 1, 1998
"He Got Game," a SPIKE LEE film starring DENZEL WASHINGTON and Bucks G RAY ALLEN, opens nationwide in theaters today. The Touchstone Pictures presentation tells the story of Jesus Shuttlesworth (Allen), a talented high school basketball player from Coney Island who must choose from the various colleges recruiting him. The decision is complicated by the release of his father Jake (Washington) from prison after serving a six-year term for murdering his wife, Jesus' mother, and the pressures of friends, coaches, agents and groupies who want a piece of Jesus' success. The film includes cameos by MICHAEL JORDAN, DEAN SMITH, CHARLES BARKLEY and SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, among others (THE DAILY). HE CAN ACT: In N.Y., Janet Maslin praises the film as an "explosion of spectacular gambits and a great high- concept hook." Allen gives a "likable, unaffected performance that would be fine even if he weren't an NBA star" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/1). NEWSWEEK's David Ansen calls the film "a celebration of the game of basketball [and] an expose of the game's corruption." Lee's script is "sharp on the specifics of the sports world," and Allen is "inexperienced but winning" (NEWSWEEK, 5/4). SI writes that Allen gives a "measured performance" and "never seems out of his league" in a film that "deftly portrays the exploitation of and the pressure put on young potential millionaires" (SI, 5/4 issue). VARIETY's Emanuel Levy writes the film is a "tad too soft," but notes the "immensely engaging" Allen, who gives an "utterly convincing performance that draws on his youth and vulnerability" (VARIETY, 4/27). In Chicago, Roger Ebert calls Allen a "rarity, an athlete who can act" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/1). Also in Chicago, Michael Wilmington: "Giving us much more than usual for a Hollywood sports movie, Lee shows us the sordid underpinnings of modern 'amateur' sports, while also conveying family heartbreak and the sport's real savage beauty" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/1). In Boston, Jay Carr writes that Lee has "folded virtually the entire [NBA] into a fiercely loving story about fathers and sons and family, with basketball as the delivery system." It is one of Lee's "best" films and Allen "does a miraculous job of blending rage and confusion" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/1). In DC, Stephen Hunter writes the film is about "sports as workplace culture and vernacular of physical expressiveness. It worships at the altar of the game." He credits Allen's performance but calls the film a "mild disappointment" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/1). On CBS "This Morning," Gene Siskel said Allen "is very good in his acting debut" (CBS, 5/1). In Minneapolis, Jeff Strickler writes that Allen "handles the dramatic aspects of the role surprisingly well." Lee "holds back nothing as he lambastes the exploitation of young athletes" by the sports industry, but he doesn't "blame the game for these problems" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/1). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Michael Rechtshaffen writes Allen "shows sensitive focus within a limited range" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 5/1). ONE CON: In N.Y., Dave Kehr writes that Allen is "no more than adequate" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/1). PUPPY CHOW: Lee is profiled in the WASHINGTON POST and says that the agent for KEVIN GARNETT and STEPHON MARBURY asked that Lee guarantee one of the two the lead role or neither would act in the film. Lee said neither player was asked to audition: "There ain't no guaranteed contracts, buddy. This is a film" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/1).