Based on the true story of 11-year-old Jasmine Plummer, the first female quarterback to play in the Pop Warner Superbowl, former Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst's directorial debut includes just about every cliche in the local-sports-team-makes-good playbook. But Durst keeps the story rooted in the desperation of a dying town, and that gives this formulaic family fare a slight edge.
Like the former factory town of Minden, Ill., itself, Curtis Plummer (Ice Cube) has seen far better days. Once a promising young local football hero, Curtis hoped to one day leave Minden for Miami, but after his dreams were sidelined by a serious knee injury, Curtis took a job at the local packaging plant. When that went under, Curtis, like so many of Minden's other residents, found himself out of work and selling herbal pills and vitamins to make ends meet. Now Curtis mostly hangs out at the park with the rest of town's down-and-outs, drinking 40 oz cans of beer and watching the Minden Middle School's football team prepare for another losing season. When Curtis's sister-in-law, Claire (Tasha Smith), offers him $5 a day to keep an eye on her daughter, Jasmine (AKEELAH AND THE BEE's Keke Palmer), so she can take on longer waitressing shifts at the diner -- Claire been raising Jasmine on her own since her deadbeat husband skipped town five years earlier -- Curtis begrudgingly agrees; Jasmine is even less thrilled with the prospect of spending her afternoons with her scruffy, unwashed uncle. Jasmine is a shy, quiet girl interested in books and fashion and hopes to one day become a model like her idol, Tyra Banks, so when Curtis suggests they try throwing a football around, she couldn't be less interested. But Curtis sees something in her that Jasmine doesn't: She has a natural way with the pigskin and can throw with surprising accuracy and force; in short, she's a natural-born quarterback. With encouragement and a few weeks of lessons, Curtis thinks Jasmine is ready for the big-time, or at least the Minden Middle School's football team. Curtis convinces Coach Fisher (Matt Craven) to let Jasmine try out and, once she makes the team, play in an actual game. Jasmine's teammates are less easily convinced that a girl can play football, but once the media picks up on this unusual story, the people of Minden soon realizes that Jasmine may be its best chance to break the team's losing streak and mend its broken spirit.
There's a lot of talk about the importance of having heart when you don't really have a whole lot else, and much of it offered by the town's pastor (Garrett Morris). It's all terribly trite, but Durst does make an effort to keep his film grounded in the reality of a lot of once thriving towns like the fictional Minden, and keeps the poverty that grips town like Minden relatively realistic. One only wishes this former musican's past would have drawn him to a slightly grittier, more fitting score than the stock-sounding soundtrack that fills each scene. leave a comment --Ken Fox