Making cult classics is an imperfect formula, But when a film finds its groove and transcends generations, its staying power is unmatched.
White Men Can’t Jump, the 1992 basketball film starring Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes just celebrated its 25th anniversary. This comes on the tails of news that a remake is in development with Blake Griffin producing. Kenya Barris, creator of Black-ish, writing the script and also a producer.
The idea of a remake may seem all well and good since so many come out each year, but maybe producers should take another route this time. How about a less traveled route that involves singing and dancing.
I’m thinking Broadway. Where the lights shine ever so bright.
Stick with me here.
As Girls, the HBO show created by ever-controversial Lena Dunham enters its last few episodes, we’re starting to get some closure on some characters. One of those characters is Elijah Krantz, her erstwhile roommate who is trying to overcome a recent breakup by auditioning for a White Men Can’t Jump musical. While that musical isn’t actually in the works, it’s surprising that we haven’t seen an attempt at it before. The music in the film wasn’t necessarily iconic, but fit so well with the movie.
Who doesn’t like 90’s R&B? No one, that’s who.
The great part about a musical version of White Men Can’t Jump is that it’s not a remake. It would be fun recasting that movie and there are many different scenarios that could be played out to fit with the times. The outline of the movie can still be there and the racial undertones would still be present. But a musical would make the world become a little more self-contained, slightly more personal.
If you’re a basketball fan, you have an undying love for this movie. Even if you’re like me, who played basketball growing up and have lost some of the love for it, you can see the attraction to this original work. Adapting the movie to stage wouldn’t be a gimmick. It would be true to the spirit of watching the pick-up games that the story is built around. It’s adrenaline-filled entertainment. People are falling back in love with basketball, especially with the current crop of players in the NBA right now.
You could easily put any young actors in the original roles and it would still have loads of artistic value to it. NBA players would surely love to be in the movie, but it would be nearly impossible to have them participate in a musical due to their schedules. Not that they would be a bad addition, yet using actors would allow for the acting and singing to meet a higher standard.
So how do you cast this? The obvious people to put in the roles are Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller. They are both up-and-coming stars who showed chemistry in a previous movie (That Awkward Moment) and have been in recent enough sports films to justify any sort of athletic musical. Their names were even brought up when The Ringer discussed recasting the movie. It seems like a natural fit.
But we’re talking about a musical, so can they sing? Both are unproven, to be honest. Teller was in line to play the lead role in La La Land before a deal fell through. Was his singing the deal breaker? How would his vocal chops hold up against other crossover artists?
Jordan, on the other hand, doesn’t have any singing ability, but it is known that he has a background in tap dancing. Is this going to be utilized in my fictional musical? I still haven’t decided. Luckily, I have the creative control and imagination to make this into whatever the hell I want it to be.
However, both actors are a bit too big for the roles and likely wouldn’t be able to commit long-term to a stage production. What about O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Straight Out of Compton) and Nick Jonas (Goat, Jonas Brothers)? Both are young enough to handle the rigors of a grueling schedule, but new enough on the scene to take on an experiment like this. They also have music backgrounds, so that checks all of the boxes.
Why should we care?
Shaping a White Men Can’t Jump musical into a commentary on the current state of America would be a compelling take, but it could be perceived as lazy and too on the nose. Am I thinking way too much about a comedy that had moments of drama in it? Probably. That doesn’t change the fact that the movie was rife with subtexts which could be explored, multiple moral quandaries that went untouched.
The stage is perfect for experimentation and the world of musicals is changing. Hamilton was an unexpected hit. Why not take more risks?
Girls is coming to an end and the show is ending on a high note. Its contribution of a faux White Men Can’t Jump musical is perfect fodder for pop culture and one of the show’s funnier ideas. Accessible movies that make us think should be expounded upon and a medium like the stage musical is alluring. It doesn’t really matter who plays the lead roles and that should excite fans.
Is White Men Can’t Jump a musical we need? No. Is it a musical you should want? Hell yeah.