He Got Game (1998)

Written and Directed by Spike Lee
Starring Denzel Washington, Ray Allen, Milla Jovovich, Ned Beatty, Rosario Dawson

My Advice: Matinee.

Spike Lee tries to make two movies here--and give him points for almost pulling it off.  One movie is about Jake Shuttlesworth (Washington), who is serving time for the murder of his wife (Lonette McKee).  He is given a proposition by the governor--if he can persuade his son (Allen) to go to the gov's favorite college to play basketball, then they might reduce Jake's time in Attica.  In comes Movie #2, where the son, Jesus, hailed as the #1 high school basketball player in the country, is getting beseiged by his girlfriend (Dawson), his uncle (a hoodoo-believing Bill Nunn), his classmates, and anyone else about how they can score "a piece of Jesus."  Into Movie #2 steps Jake, whom Jesus hates--for obvious reasons.  Movie #2 tends to get wrapped up in itself too often when it tries to deal with the vast pitfalls that come with a person in Jesus' position: sex, material wealth, skipping college, etc.  Movie #1 is this film's strength, where we see a father who tried to live through his son, to the detriment of both.  It's a better movie than the second because it fits any situation where a son is being pushed by his father to be the best, not just basketball.  Washington's performance is excellent as the suffering wise father.  Allen, in real life a basketball player, seems to come to the screen a natural; it is the scenes between Washington and Allen which work the best.  Jovovich is good as a prostitute neighbor of Washington's, but the relationship between the two seems superfluous at best.  Still it's a very good film, worth seeing twice, with an ending scene that is rich in potential interpretation.

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