Movie Review Sunset Park
Here at Deluxe Video Online we are celebrating March Madness by watching copious amounts of basketball movies and reviewing them, for good or ill. Unfortunately Sunset Park falls into the latter category. Yeah, I’m not even going to bother to try to bury the lead with this movie.
Sunset Park (1996)
Sunset Park is the story of Phyllis Saroka, a middle age high school teacher. Dissatisfied with her job as a school teacher, she applies for the vacant coaching position for a primarily all black high school basketball team, with hopes of earning enough cash to open a restaurant in St. Croix. Surprisingly she get’s the job (well, not really a huge surprise, otherwise this would’ve been a very short movie) and discovers the team stinks! While they aren’t without talent, they just cant seem to get out of their own way, with most of the team exhibiting personality quirks and the stereotypical personal problems common to “urban” movies.
The team’s leader is Shorty (Fredro Starr), He is such a hopeless romantic, it lands him in trouble with gangbangers and the law. Spaceman (Terrence Howard) is a psychopath when he’s on drugs. The other players have a variety of issues that are common in the loser basketball team genre: they are poorly motivated, mistrustful of authority, and full of just plain old defeatism.
Phyllis isn’t without her own issues either; she has hang-ups about failure and about men, mostly stemming from her boyfriend bouncing on her, taking her TV and VCR. Clearly she is not up to the job, and the players don’t respect her, but eventually she manages to turn the team around, and in the process begins to care about the players while earning their respect.
The performances of Rhea Perlman, Fredro Star and a very young Terrence Howard range from solid to terrific. The story is nothing new, but it’s certainly serviceable including some complexity in Shorty’s storyline. Yeah, that’s all I have positive to say about Sunsets Park.
A Dangerous Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste
Sunset Park is a weird hybrid of typical loser team + rookie coach = success (that has been beaten to death in the sports genre), with 1995’s Dangerous Minds. While Rhea Perlman may be more convincing as a high school teacher, at least in appearance, emulating Dangerous Minds is a dumb move, since it was still a pretty terrible movie, save for the great music associated with the film. Unfortunately, Sunset Park doesn’t sport the killer soundtrack that Dangerous Minds had, and while it may be a slightly more competent movie in terms of performances and story, Sunset Park still falls flat in comparison. How Flat? Dangerous Minds grossed $84 million domestically compared to Sunset Park’s $10 million.
You can attribute some of that to Dangerous Minds’ marketing, soundtrack, and Michelle Pfeiffer’s star power, but TriStar dropped the ball when choosing their personnel for this project. Director Steve Gomer and his crew were not up to the task of making a feature film. Choreography of the actual Basketball scenes are incredibly lazy and boring, Sunset Park is just so technically unsound, that it distracts from the competent story and solid performances.
Out Of Bounds
I cannot recommend Sunset Park, While it was not a terrible movie, it left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Sunset Park didn’t provide anything new to the genre, and as a basketball film it was boring. Pile on the shitty directing, cinematography and screenplay…why bother? Steve Gomer and company clearly didn’t.