Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Good (Celtics) vs. Evil (Lakers)

It being the NBA playoffs was probably only a small factor in why the Martin Lawrence vehicle Rebound rose to the top of my Netflix queue.

More important was the fact that I'd been approved to review it a long time ago, and I like to go through and clean house on my older approvals from time to time.

And though I didn't like this movie, I didn't hate it, and one of the primary reasons for my not-hatred was that it served as an allegory for the NBA's greatest rivalry, prizing my side over the other.

You know I live in Los Angeles -- but if you thought I liked the Los Angeles sports teams, you'd be dead wrong. I'm from Boston, and my Boston teams will always be my teams. I have a limited fondness for the LA teams that don't have a natural conflict with my Boston teams (say, the Dodgers), but I hate hate hate the ones that do (say, the Lakers).

And by the end of Rebound, I was quite sure that the movie was on my side, too.

See, Lawrence's disgraced college basketball coach, Roy McCormick (another one of those Irish black dudes, like Shaquille O'Neal), is forced, through a strange set of circumstances, to coach a hapless middle school basketball team. How hapless? We see them lose games by scores of 56-0 and 109-0. That's right, they get shut out in a basketball game. Which, by the way, has never happened, anywhere, in the history of time. But it happens to this team twice. Screenwriting subtlety at its finest.

The team is from Mt. Vernon Middle School, where Coach Roy attended middle school himself, and they are called the Smelters. A somewhat unusual mascot, yes? I thought so too -- and when I realized that they dress in green, I could not help make an association with the Boston Celtics, who also wear green. Smelters and Celtics sound pretty darn similar.

But I actually sort of deduced this in reverse, because the first thing I noticed was the signature purple and gold worn by the Smelters' chief rivals, the Vikings. The Los Angeles Lakers, the chief rivals of the Celtics, also wear purple and gold. And while the words Lakers and Vikings have fewer sounds in common than Smelters and Celtics, they do both have the letter K in the middle of a two-syllable word. (If you want to go a step further, the Vikings are the professional football team from Minnesota, and Minnesota is where the Lakers originated before moving to Los Angeles -- hence their name.)

There are other aspects that enforce the good-evil dynamic as well as the Celtic-Laker dynamic. The Vikings coach, played by Patrick Warburton, is a very tall white man (like Laker coach Phil Jackson) and very evil (unlike Jackson, but then again, that's the kind of assessment a person would make subjectively). Meanwhile, Lawrence is a short black man, kind of like Celtics coach Doc Rivers. Both were coaching their respective teams at the time the film was released, although the chronology was somewhat goofy: Rivers began as Celtics coach in 2004, the same year that Jackson stopped being the Lakers coach. However, Jackson spent only one season out of the Lakers coaching position, before being rehired about two weeks before Rebound hit theaters.

Surely someone else other than me must have noticed this, but the movie was such a dud (it made only $5 million with a plumb July 1st release date) that no one ever really considered it worth writing about. No internet search of relevant terms gave me anything useful.

So I decided to look up the writers, to see if I could find anything in their histories that would have caused them to give the film a blatant Celtics bias. After all, movies are made in Los Angeles, so you'd expect the reverse bias if anything.

It didn't take long to figure it out. The story was developed by Ed Decter and John J. Strauss, who also wrote There's Something About Mary along with the Farrelly Brothers. Never mind the precipitous drop in quality from Mary to Rebound -- the relevant info is that the Farrellys and these two other guys are all New Englanders. Decter went to Wesleyan University in Connecticut, at least. It stands to reason that they were Farrelly buddies, since Mary was the first movie gig for both Decter and Strauss, who had previously worked together in TV.

I originally thought I'd found a connection with the third guy who receives a story credit, William Wolff. However, I suspect his IMDB page could be screwed up. His most recent two credits are in 2005 and 1999, but it was his third most recent credit that caught my attention: a TV series called Boston Blackie. However, since this TV series was apparently on the air in 1953, and his older credits are also from the early 1950s, I suspect that two different people may have been morphed into one. I'm sure that kind of thing happens with some frequency with a database as large as IMDB's.

That's a pretty long post for a pretty forgettable movie. But that's what we're all about here on The Audient.

And just as the (spoiler alert! ha ha) Smelters prevailed over the Vikings in Rebound, here's hoping the same will happen in the NBA Finals this year, if my team and my most hated team do in fact meet again.

No comments: