The most difficult role in drama isn't playing Hamlet; it's playing basketball. From Michael J. Fox in the 1980s flick Teen Wolf to Mykelti Williamson in the recently canceled Showtime series The Hoop Life, many actors have tried to hoop it up on-screen, but only a few have scored. (We except Ray Allen, costar of the 1998 movie He Got Game, whose real job is, after all, shooting guard for the Bucks.) For instance, if we had anything to say about it, the on-court sequences from NBC's Hang Time would be relegated to pine time. Which leads us to the endearing, if not All-Star-worthy, new film Love & Basketball. Omar Epps stars as Quincy McCall, and the extremely appealing Sanaa Lathan plays Monica Wright. Quincy and Monica are star players and next-door neighbors whose mutual passion for the game blossoms into love for each other. We're not about to pretend we're Ebert or Entertainment Weekly; we'll spare you the thumb and the letter grade. We'd rather be Hubie Brown and "break down" the hoops v�rit�.
Quincy and Monica meet as 11-year-olds during a two-on-two game in his driveway. The players check the ball after each made basket. The game ends abruptly when Quincy (played as a youngster by Glenndon Chatman), beaten on a give-and-go by female interloper Monica (Kyla Pratt), flagrantly fouls her from behind. It's as if Rick Mahorn had scripted it.
From Los Angeles's Crenshaw High and Southern Cal—where McCall and Wright are point guards—to a women's European club team, Vigo, to the NBA Lakers and WNBA Sparks, every uniform seen in Love & Basketball is the goods.
The last two games of Monica's freshman season at USC are against Oregon and Oregon State. First-time director Gina Prince-Bythewood, the film's writer and a former runner on the UCLA track team, clearly knows the Pac-10 basketball slate.
If Quincy and Monica are proficient enough at the point to play professionally, how come Ralph Reed goes to his left more often? Behind-the-back dribbling, which Q, as Quincy is called, deploys too often, is the hardwood equivalent of overacting.
The Breakaway Trey.
During a Southern Cal practice Monica steals the ball and has an opening for an uncontested layup. Instead, she pulls up for a three-pointer. Afterward her coach, Christine Dunford, chews her out not for taking the shot but for failing to get back on defense after sinking it. What is this, The Nick Van Exel Story?
The Banks Shot.
Finally, it's not a hoops gaffe, but Tyra Banks plays Q's fianc�e, and Monica's mother (Alfre Woodard) says, "He can do a lot better, if you ask me." On what planet?