Adam Sandler is the rare star who isn’t afraid to look vulnerable. It’s an innate talent that has served him well in emotionally complex roles funny people, Beat drenched love, The Wedding Singer, Unpolished gems, and so forth. Between his sharp quips lies a stunning, often improbable, intimacy that makes Sandler Hollywood’s biggest pooch. That’s why its pairing with an emotionally sensitive director like Jeremiah Zagar makes so much sense. HurryZagar’s inspirational basketball film for Netflix, is essentially Rocky meets Jerry Maguire.
And Sandler as weary NBA scout Stanley is the film’s stirring compass. Stanley has spent the last eight years traveling from game to game and hotel room to hotel room around the world in search of one player who would make the difference who could lead his team, the Philadelphia 76ers, to a championship . But Stanley is sick of the road. He wants to become a coach to find stability and spend time with his wife Teresa (Queen Latifah) and their daughter (Jordan Hull). When he discovers Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangomez), a tall Spanish construction worker with a game, he thinks he’s found his one-of-a-kind lottery ticket.
Hurry is decidedly glitzier and bigger than Zagar’s previous film, the critical indie darling We the animals. It employs an all-star cast, sophisticated camerawork and sharp editing to elevate a cliche tale of serious fatherhood and far-flung mature dreams. But at the beginning Hurrythe bones of other, better films are visible.
The mild-mannered Stanley attempts to be a team player by stepping down from the hostile Vince Merrick (Ben Foster), son of 76ers team owner Rex (Robert Duvall). A stubborn scouting meeting between Stanley and Vince, during which they bicker over the skills of an international prospect who Stanley believes is lacking in heart, is ripped out money ball. Stanley calms Vince down by routinely missing his own daughter’s birthday to be away, but they still maintain a heartwarming relationship, which can be seen on a car ride where she explains her dream of attending film school. This sequence takes inspiration from Sandler’s role as a sensitive father in that of Noah Baumbach The Meyerowitz Stories.
Even Stanley’s discovery of Bo Cruz dates back to another film. After Rex Stanley secures his long-awaited promotion to assistant coach with the 76ers, Vince pushes him back onto the street with a lonely directive: if the ailing scout finds a generational talent, he gets his coaching job back. In Spain, Stanley discovers Bo, who not only plays basketball at Timberlands, but also steals money from the local players by challenging them one-on-one. (Why none of these athletes recognize the 6ft 9in tall Bo as a wrestler is beyond imagination.) Bo is a single father who wants a better life for his young daughter Lucia and uses basketball as a solution. His fatherly urges are reminiscent of Ray Allen’s paternalistic character He has game.
Hurry offers many opportunities to feel good, but the writers Will Fetters (A star Is Born) and Taylor Materne strive to develop their characters. When Stanley returns to America with Bo, Vince doesn’t care about the incredibly talented Spaniard. Vince is a clear villain, but the script doesn’t give him much motivation to ruin Stanley’s life. At least Foster’s ability to project a spontaneous rage makes a meal out of the crumbs the script gives him. Heidi Gardner as Vince’s sister, who may have an inexplicably crush on Stanley, barely finds screen time, and neither does Duvall. Queen Latifah is relegated to the role of supportive wife, and Stanley’s relationship with his daughter, despite its loose dynamic, lacks depth.
There is a version of this film in which Sandler’s beat-up scout gets closer to struggling alcoholic Ben Affleck, who stars in the film Recovery Through Exercise the way back. But Fetters and Materne aren’t interested in the darker, edgier corners that are fundamental to redemption stories. And while the film sometimes suffers, Hurry is still effectively tender.
Sandler and Hernangomez share impressive chemistry. A connection similar to Jerry Maguire‘s Jerry and his client Rod Tidwell appear between the two, while Stanley becomes Bo’s hype man – dubbing him “If Scottie Pippen and a wolf had a baby” – and becomes a therapist and father figure to the gifted gamer . Sandler’s penchant for mixing laughter with sorrow is a fitting opportunity to flesh out his superficial character. And Hernangomez, a six-year NBA veteran, is fascinating. Just like the other stars of the basketball world who make cameos; Trae Young, Tobias Harris, Doc Rivers, Kenny Smith, Julius Erving and so on don’t glue the works together à la space jambut add a welcome realism.
Her inclusion also adds invaluable skills to the film’s game of basketball. Where series like HBO’s winning time Sometimes put the acrobatics of the sport in the back seat, it’s front and center Hurry, with cinematographer Zak Mulligan contributing immersive cinematography and unique compositions. Tom Costain and Brian M. Robinson also liven up the film with gripping editing that relies on exciting match cuts. To prepare Bo for clashes with Kermit Wilts, the other quick-witted villain HurryStanley suspends a training program Rocky. The montage of Bo running, jumping, dribbling, and shooting spans at least 10 minutes without a draw. A delightfully intense pace emanates from the sight of Bo triumphing over his hurdles.
Until the final basketball game, when Bo needs to impress NBA executives enough to earn a contract, we all know where Hurry will take us. But that doesn’t make arriving at the familiar destination any less satisfying. Between the sincerity that Sandler and Hernangomez share and the high level of craftsmanship, Hurry offers enough distractions to lift our hearts, even if we end up yearning for more specificity from these characters and their struggles.
Hurry Premiered on Netflix on June 8th.
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