White Men Can't Jump (1992)

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Released 5-Sep-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Music Video-White Men Can't Jump - Riff
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1992
Running Time 110:56
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (49:37) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Ron Shelton
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Wesley Snipes
Woody Harrelson
Rosie Perez
Case Six-Sided Star Clamp
RPI $36.95 Music Bennie Wallace


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Czech
Danish
English
Finnish
Hebrew
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Swedish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes, Lots of courtside and clothing sponsorship
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Upon its release in 1992, White Men Can't Jump was billed pretty much as a straight comedy. Woody Harrelson had enjoyed comedic success in his role in Cheers, and Wesley Snipes was just beginning to build a reputation as a fast talking master of jive. I feel sure that many people who went along to their local cinema to see this might well have been somewhat disappointed, because although there is much humour sprinkled throughout the film, the central theme is quite serious. At its heart, the film is a character study of two individuals; the white man Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson) and the black man Sidney Deane (Wesley Snipes). The racial distinction is important because the film has been put together to carefully explode a whole range of racial and social stereotypes.

    Billy and Sidney are basketball hustlers, conning cash from unwary players on the public courts of L.A. by using a combination of fast talking and some very fancy playing. When they first meet at the beginning of the film, Billy turns up at one of the beachside courts, looking all the world like a geeky white wannabe. In stark contrast, Sidney is a cool, street savvy ball player obviously king of the pile in his local area. He foolishly agrees to take on Billy, who proceeds to outplay him in every way and takes him for a few bucks. Billy returns to his apartment and his girlfriend Gloria (Rosie Perez) who turns out to be a trivia nut intent on landing a huge prize on the TV show Jeopardy. Sidney soon shows up at Billy's apartment, a singularly slummy place, and convinces him to team up in a hustling partnership. Their scam is simple - Sidney turns up at a court, razzes the locals into a prize game and then allows them to choose his partner from anyone in the crowd. With Billy "the chump" available to be selected, the locals reckon they've got Sidney beaten before they even start. The trick brings rewards. Their first attempt nets them $600, but on their second attempt with $1,700 of Billy's (and Gloria's) money at stake, Sidney messes up and they lose the lot.

    It would be wrong of me to reveal the details of the story's twists and turns. The real interest lies in the differences between the two principals, Billy the university dropout who believes that "blacks would rather look good and lose than look bad and win, whereas whites would rather win than look good". The ironic thing is that it's actually Billy who is the real loser here, throwing away opportunity after opportunity in vain attempts to justify his own self image, while in spite of his street cred, Sidney is a hard-working and stable family man. The sad thing is that, even at the end when everything is gone, Billy still doesn't learn his lesson.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in a 16x9 enhanced 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

     The picture really is a treat, with stunning levels of detail in spite of a slight softness to it. The result is a beautiful, natural, cinematic feel. Shadow detail is generally excellent, with only the odd moment when clarity is reduced. I suspect this is a fault with the source material. There is no low level noise and no grain to be seen at any point.

     Colours are likewise gorgeously rendered, from the very first frames when the lolly coloured and fully saturated credits roll. This is simply the beginning of some real eye-candy, as the production design and costume designers have apparently gone to town to produce a vivid picture to enhance all the basketball action. Skin tones present warmly and realistically and there is no hint of colour bleeding.

    The only artefacts of any description are some very minor film marks that occur throughout the film, but you would really have to be looking for them to find them. For all intents and purposes, this is close to as pristine as you are likely to get.

    The disc is dual layered with the layer change coming at 49:37 during the middle of a scene. It passes without dramatic fanfare.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The disc features a single English 2.0 surround-encoded Dolby Digital soundtrack. I don't think there is much to complain about here, because the film is heavily dialogue based and lacks serious special audio effects.

    Given the nature of the film, the dialogue frequently flies out of the actors' mouths thick and fast. It is almost always clear and easy to understand, and the relatively few cases where this is not so I suspect is carried over from the source material. For similar reasons, audio sync is sometimes hard to check for. It looks pretty much OK throughout the film, although there are some dodgy moments between the 53 and 55 minute marks, where repeated viewings couldn't quite tell whether there was a slight sync problem or not.

    The musical score is aggressive and consists of a succession of rap singles that matches the story and pictures.

    The surround encoding is used purely for generalised atmosphere rather than for specific targeted effects. As I noted above, this is really a feature of the film rather than any shortcoming of the disc. Similarly, the subwoofer is pretty much inactive throughout.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Music Video - Riff: "White Men Can't Jump"

    Running time is 3:56 minutes. A pretty standard music video clip which, I guess, you either like or don't like.

Trailer

    Running time is 2:04 minutes. The trailer certainly lacks the quality that's on offer with the film itself. While film artefacts are no problem, the picture lacks colour and picture detail. It manages to convey the style of the film without destroying the story for the viewer.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    From available accounts, the additional footage (not part of the theatrical version) consists of about 60 seconds of the award ceremony after the basketball tournament, and is not described as being of any great significance. The choice becomes a bit of a toss-up between the better PAL picture against a marginally better extras list. I tend to lean towards the PAL picture but that's just personal.

Summary

    White Men Can't Jump is a well written and acted film that repays several viewings. It provides a combination of some great basketball action, fast-paced wit and a character story that leaves you thinking. The in-your-face dialogue may not endear the film to everyone, and I guess I wouldn't expect this to be a frequent visitor to my player, but it's nevertheless worth considering.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Murray Glase (read my bio)
Wednesday, October 24, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-K310, using S-Video output
DisplayPioneer SD-T43W1 (125cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-D906S
SpeakersRichter Wizard (front), Jamo SAT150 (rear), Yamaha YST-SW120 (subwoofer)

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