A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Slamma Jamma is a faith-based drama starring real-life slam dunker Chris Staples as a basketball-playing ex-con who returns to his old L.A. neighborhood to turn his life around. There's very little in the way of strong language (rare use of "damn," "hell," and "oh my God"), sexuality, or substance use, but you can expect some gun threats and violence. A store clerk is shot and killed in a robbery, though viewers don't see the bullet land. And gang members who sell drugs are featured in the story. Spoiler alert: A major character dies in a long, sad hospital scene. Christian messages are delivered throughout (i.e., "God will be with us;" "God has a plan"), and fans who like high-flying jumps over men and motorcycles may enjoy the basketball action.
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What's the story?
In SLAMMA JAMMA, Michael Diggs (Chris Staples), gets out of prison after a miscarriage of justice (seen in flashbacks) and heads home to Los Angeles's inner city. Once a rising basketball star, Michael is now faced with the challenging prospects of getting a steady job that will help him cover his ailing mother's medical bills, extricating his little brother from the murderous street gang he's joined, and accepting the fact that his former fiancee is now in a serious relationship with an NBA player. The only things Michael has going for him are his long-neglected basketball skills, his newly found belief in God, and a sincere desire to make a better life for himself and his family. A local slam-dunk contest with a sizable cash prize seems like a great opportunity -- but only if he can get ready in time. While he trains hard, Michael is faced with an onslaught of challenges; with only his faith and strong moral compass to rely on, Michael finds he must resist temptation to make himself into the man he knows he can be.
Is it any good?
Unless you're a fan of the physical act of the slam dunk (of which there are plenty in this film), there's nothing to recommend in this artless redemption story. The plot has zero surprises, and, curiously, redemption isn't even a factor. The criminal charges that sent Michael to prison were false, so he never needed redeeming. And yet he continually talks about being a "changed man."
What's more, writer-director Timothy A. Chey relies on every urban cliche. A rich athlete and struggling underdog vie for the heart of a good woman. The gang life offers easy money -- if only the hero will sell his soul. The climactic contest looms large, with never a doubt about the outcome. Slamma Jamma has a decent message -- hanging onto faith and fortitude is a decisive way to rise from the ashes of youthful "mistakes" -- but the film itself is weighed down by so many missed opportunities that it's hard to watch.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Slamma Jamma's messages. Do you need to be Christian to appreciate what it's saying about family? About faith?
Did the flashback scenes clearly show you why Michael felt he needed to change his life and become a better person? Is he a role model? Who was actually the one character in the film who found redemption?
What makes a movie predictable? How early in Slamma Jamma did you know what the outcome would be? Are you OK with predictable movies if the characters are interesting and their journeys include some twists and turns?
What is it about watching athletes slam dunk that's so enjoyable? How much of their success do you think is based on natural talent, and how much is based on hard work and preparation?
- In theaters: March 24, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: November 7, 2017
- Cast: Chris Staples, Michael Irvin
- Director: Timothy A. Chey
- Studio: RiverRain Productions
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Brothers and Sisters, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 104 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements, some violence
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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