Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Just Wright

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It’s still early in the year, but 2010’s romantic comedies aren’t likely to feature two nicer, more deserving lovebirds than Just Wright’s Queen Latifah and Common. She’s a physical therapist who keeps a cheery disposition, even through a succession of dates who would rather be her buddy than her mate. He’s an extravagantly talented NBA star who’s just looking for a nice woman, someone to take him away from the gold-digging vultures who skulk around hotel lobbies. She wants to please her doting father (James Pickens, Jr.), he wants to please his protective mother (Phylicia Rashad, still doing Clair Huxtable after all these years), and goodness knows the stars have aligned for the sole purpose of bringing these bright, noble-hearted people together. It just shouldn’t happen in a movie.

Lest anyone need a reminder that conflict is the engine of drama, Just Wright provides a blandly agreeable one. There has to be friction to create sparks, and both characters have their share of issues, whether it’s Latifah’s wavering self-esteem or the blinding effect of Common’s fame and fortune. But as obstacles go, these act more as traffic cones than walls. The only real wedge comes in the svelte form of Paula Patton, who plays Latifah’s vain best friend, a young woman single-mindedly devoted to being an NBA wife. Patton gets her wish when Latifah invites her to tag along to a party for New Jersey Nets guard Common and the two immediately hit it off, but her loyalties waver when he goes down with an injury at the All-Star Game. (For basketball fans, watching a player get injured at the All-Star Game is more painful than anything in Antichrist.) So along comes Latifah the physical therapist to nurse his mangled knee back to health before the playoffs start.

With Latifah and Common boxed in by their one-dimensional decency, that leaves Patton as the lone chaos agent in Just Wright, bringing drama where peace and love would otherwise reign. As a result, her character does whatever the script calls for at various junctures, consistency be damned: One minute, she’s the loyal, encouraging (though slightly wild) friend who ultimately wants the best for Latifah; the next, she’s every bit the self-centered, status-obsessed gold-digger that Common professes to abhor. With her, Just Wright feels hampered by arbitrary contrivances; without her, it wouldn’t be enough movie to exist at all.