Watch Steve's supplemental video review at the bottom of the article
I suppose it's not that surprising that a film by the name ofSlamma Jamma is not a very good movie, but I would argue that it's surprising a film with that title is both grossly incompetent but privileged, having made it into over 500 theaters in the United States. The latter stat should not be overlooked; in a month that's offered little else besides blockbuster-fare, to see a film of this low-level grade enter theaters should tell anyone, for better or for worse, that anything is possible.
When I say "grossly incompetent," what do I mean? Consider that you can see camera equipment, such as boom operators and long camera cranes, as plain as day during the film's climactic scenes at a dunking competition. Or maybe factor in how visible extras and background characters mugging directly at the camera are, looking as stiff and as distracting as life-sized cutouts. Then there are the little things, such a character who hands a doctor a check for $25,000 in order to pay for their mother's rehab and performances from actors that are so rough and unconvicing they might as well have been computer-generated humans in an attempt to feel more natural.
The story centers around Michael Diggs, a once hot and promising USC basketball player who acted as an accessory to robbery and murder with a friend of his and got sentenced to six years in prison, effectively ending what could've been a Hall of Fame career we're constantly told. The film opens with Diggs getting out of prison, returning home to an ailing mom (Rosemarie Smith-Coleman), a fiancee (Alexia Hall) who has moved on, and a younger brother (Kelsey Caesar) being lured in by the same gang-life that ended all his hopes and aspirations.
Diggs spends his days walking alone down busy streets trying to find a place that will look past his ex-con status and give him a job. After playing many pickup basketball games in the park with his friends, he decides he could have a real shot at winning a national slam dunking contest. With motivation to secure some finances and possibly even channel a comeback, Diggs gets busy on preparing for the competition all while avoiding confrontation from friends-turned-foes, a sleazy sports agent (played by former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin), and "Jammer" (Justin Darlington), the reigning champion of dunking.
Timothy A. Chey
Chris Staples, Michael Irvin, Jose Canseco
23 March 2017
Steve's Grade: D-
For starters, Michael Diggs is played by Chris Staples, a former Harlem Globetrotter and a "professional dunker" as well. Staples gives a lousy performance here, saying most of his lines in such a cloying, unnatural way that they far too often land with a resounding thud of clunkiness. To Staples' credit, no one in the film gives a good performance, as they all either demonstrate the fact that they aren't actors or can't make anything out of the lackluster screenplay written by the film's director Tim Chey.
Chey, a former lawyer before a full-time film director, makes one of the sloppiest and laziest films I've seen in sometime.Slamma Jamma is so stuffed with melodramatic platitudes and a myriad of subplots that the film both can't keep up and can't maintain any level of conviction. Compounding the atrocious acting is horribly forced comic relief in the form of one of Michael's close friends, a streetball player who works at the local Taco Hut. He's the kind of dense, faceless doofus that exists just to respond to statements like "your chances of a comeback are the same as a snowball freezing in Hell" with "snowballs don't freeze in Hell." Chey evidently thinks he and his characters are being funny here, but he's really just continuing to offset the tone of a film that's not even capable of tackling one genre with any sense of poise.
I almost forgot to mention that Slamma Jamma is a faith-based film by definition. Throughout Diggs' tribulations, he trusts in the guidance of God, whom he found in prison, to lead him down the right path. Chey uses Diggs' faith like he does most other themes and inclusions in the film and that's as a baseless gimmick to justify his actions so much that there's reason to believe that the film was conceived as a secular drama and the Christian element was added in later in order to give the film a more dramatically realized purpose. I honestly can't say how overwrought the faith element in the film is (certainly not as offensively condescending as The Shack, that's for sure); one forgoes such things when the film that encases it is so dreadful in itself.
Whatever the case, only one thing remains, and that is Slamma Jamma is astonishingly bad in the way it fails in nearly every filmmaking category. Cheaply made, shockingly wooden, and not the least bit convincing in an acting or a writing sense, this is one of the first times I've exited a film with the feeling that it could pander to the midnight circuit of cinema cultists not for its propaganda message nor its corny and comical nature, but its sheer, embarrassing ineptitude that still somehow inspired Tim Chey to leave his name on the project instead of Alan Smithee's.