Hustle, the Best Sports Movie Based in Philly?

Like most teenage boys, my first occupational dream was athletic: professional hockey player. Once I realized my physique had different ideas, I entertained a less common dream: that of an amateur scout. I even tried learning Swedish. There’s something so pure and simple about scouting: watching the sport you love, looking for exceptional exemplars of said sport, and excavating hidden talent. Scouting seemed to the younger me an occupational incarnation of my love for the sport. 

And Adam Sandler certainly loves basketball. 

Playing Stanley Sugerman, a fictional international scout for the Philadelphia 76ers, Sandler gives one of his best performances of the Sandler-Resurgence. He doesn’t want to be a scout, though. The innocence of my teenage dream shattered by the reality of adulthood: family matters. Stanley wants to be a father to his film-nerd daughter (newcomer Jordan Hall as Alex) and husband to wife Teresa (Queen Latifah), but he just can’t. 76ers owner Rex Merrick (Robert Duvall) promotes Stanley to the bench, but dies shortly thereafter, leaving the team to his asshole of a son Vince (Ben Foster), who never puts down his phone—a recurring minor theme that complements the family structure in Hustle. Stanley’s given an ultimatum: find the next MJ and there is a spot for him behind the bench. 

On assignment in Spain, he ends up at a high-level pick-up game where he spots “the big guy,” Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangómez, of the Utah Jazz). A defensive phenom, Bo has the potential to be a top-10 player in the league if he gets into shape and can shake his “short-tempered” image. Hernangómez is sensational as Bo and, to my surprise, manages to do some serious acting here, unlike Kevin Garnett, who had a much simpler role in Sandler’s other recent film featuring a real professional basketball player, Uncut Gems

Continue reading at the Boston Hassle.

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