The film follows two youngsters in Detroit, both with great basketball skill. One is working on his GED, having just gotten out of prison. The other just finished high school and is waiting to hear about a basketball scholarship to "California University of Los Angeles" so he can go to school and eventually become a doctor. (I'd be remiss if I didn't point out here that both the Saved by the Bell and Beverly Hills, 90210 kids went to a California University in LA, so there is great tradition there.) Brady, the agent, fixes streetball games in Detroit and is trying to get the high school kid to go pro so he can get a percentage. The kids lose a game, need to make some money, there's some drama with women, they need to play a big game to win their dignity, etc. All very cliched.
The true joy in this movie comes in two things: a lack of attention to detail by the director and a really, historically awful script. First, the lack of attention. As I've seen in a lot of these bad movies, the director tries to make the movie look cool by using really quick cuts. That's totally the way to make a movie awesome, since nobody ever raves about long shots like the one to open The Godfather. The cuts mean that there is a decent amount of back-and-forth between wide shots and closeups. The director didn't always make sure that people were in the same position during those cuts, so you end up with a number of scenes where it looks like somebody's body jerked two inches to the side. The two main actors themselves are too old to be believable in their roles. Anthony Mackie was 27 and Wesley Jonathan was 28. Brady himself was only 34, so they don't look younger enough than him. With those three actors, you actually have some talent -- Mackie broke out in a big way last year in The Hurt Locker, Jonathan was one of the main characters on the TNBC show City Guys (and therefore had a lot of experience), and Brady's talents are well-known. The rest of the actors in the movie are awful. So bad that I even sensed some misogyny as the female characters are portrayed poorly in the story and acted even worse.
Second, we have the script. I can't knock the overall story because there have been some very good movies (Avatar, Remember The Titans) that have been chock full of cliches. The fun here is in the details and in the dialogue. One dramatic scene involves a showdown at a shoe store where we learn that the main character can't add in his head. I'm not oversimplifying that. He is very embarrassed and it's supposed to be some huge moment. Another big plot twist is when we find out that one of the girls was lying about her pregnancy and that, instead of it being by one of the heroes, she was actually pregnant by the big villain of the movie. The biggest plot twist of the movie happens off-screen. As in, one scene the facts of the movie are X and then, in the next scene, one character tells the other that Y happened and the entire plot has changed. And then, of course, we have the dialogue.
Here are some actual quotes from the movie. I played them back and wrote them down. It was hard to remember them when I was laughing so hard:
- "Look, the World Series and the NBA Finals are the two most bet-on games in the country..." (Not only not true, that makes no sense)
- "But this ain't horseshoes, this is streetball. Want to know who the winner is? Count your paper at the end of the game."
- "Look, I can't front. I'm feeling you." "I can't front, neither. I can't speak to tomorrow or the day after, but right now, I don't want to be with nobody but you."
- "So she got you open like the freeway at four in the morning."
- "Cruise might not be able to play ball with a bad lung... but he sure as hell can be a doctor."
- "Vanessa's from the D, through and through. She was born with larceny in her heart."
There's more where that came from. Bad actors delivering awful lines is bad, but actors with even a little talent delivering them is laugh-out-loud funny. Instead of rolling your eyes, you actually get to appreciate the lines as written. Crossover has just enough good in it to make the bad stand out and that's what makes it so darn entertaining.