Don’t call it a remake. 20th Century Studios White Men Can’t Jump might share the name and premise of the 1992 Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson classic but it is unabashedly its own film. Jack Harlow‘s washed-up white dude, Jeremy, and Sinqua Walls‘ Kamal are still hustling on the streetball circuit of L.A. but the 2023 film is much more of a modern retelling than a remake. Infused with 21st-century sensibilities, the new film works as a wonderful homage to the 1992 original while comfortably and confidently forging its own path.
After retelling another 1990s classic, House Party, director Calmatic dipped into the retelling well again for White Men Can’t Jump, just his second feature film. Known for his work as a director of music videos for stars such as Lamar Kendrick, Lil Nas X, Pharrell Williams and more, Calmatic saw the opportunity to bring an important part of the music industry to the project: sampling. Rather than attempting to remake a beloved film, Calmatic paid homage to the film by taking some of its best bits and making them their own, new thing.
“I got a hip-hop background, right? And so, I don’t like to say, like, we re-made a movie. I feel like we sampled a movie, right?“, explained Calmatic during the global press event for Hulu’s White Men Can’t Jump. Calmatic extended the music analogy much further, saying “We took a couple of elements; you know what I’m sayin’? We chopped it up. We changed the pitch; you know what I’m sayin’? We reversed it a little bit. And then we put a whole new bassline, a whole new set of drums on it to make it feel current. And so, I feel like that’s what this is, right? This is, like, a dope flip, you know what I mean? So, I think, you know, they say things that are classic are things that are new that feel familiar.“
For Calmatic, it was a balancing act of sampling the bits of the 1992 film that worked so well with allowing the 2023 film to find its own footing. “So, I think we had a bunch of new elements, new characters, new storyline,” he explained, “but we had to have some of those elements, some of those locations that are familiar to everyone, you know, kinda, you know, associates with the original film. So, Venice Beach, we had to keep Venice Beach in there, you know what I’m sayin’? We had to have, you know, the guy skating down the boardwalk, you know what I mean? We had to do this in Watts, you know what I’m sayin’? That court is iconic. That bridge, the Watts Towers, like, we had to keep that. And then, obviously the big, you know, flamethrower scene. That was the original location from the “I’m gonna go get my gun,” you know what I’m sayin’?“, said Calmatic, referencing the classic bit from Marques Johnson‘s Raymond.
What’s clear is that while fans of the 1992 film will find those rhyming samples entertaining, Calmatic has made a film that doesn’t require any association with its namesake. That Hulu’s White Men Can’t Jump can both stand on the shoulders of the classic and stand on its own is quite an accomplishment. White Men Can’t Jump debuts on Hulu May 19th.