In SUNSET PARK, Phyllis Saroka (Rhea Perlman) plays the canonical
role of the basketball coach who takes a bunch of athletic losers from
the ghetto and turns them into winners. You think you have already
seen this film a dozen times? Well, you probably have. This film is
pure formula from beginning to end.
Like all producers (Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg, and Dan
Paulson) who want to cash in on a formula, they get the director (Steve
Gomer) and the writers (Kathleen McGhee Anderson, and Seth Zvi
Rosenfeld) to try to introduce some twists on quintessential themes in
order to fool the audience into thinking their material is fresh.
SUNSET PARK's lone new idea is that teacher Saroka agrees to take
on the basketball team just as their season starts. The reason is
totally pecuniary since she knows nothing at all about basketball. How
does she learn? Why she goes to the public library of course. When
that isn't enough she tells her team, "if you'll show me some stuff
about basketball, I'll show you some stuff about winning." What a
Every member of the basketball team has some cute nickname. There
is Shorty (Fredro Starr), Spaceman (Terrence DaShon Howard), Big Butter
(James Harris) and Busy-Bee (De'Aundre Bonds) among others. They
aren't much interested in basketball, but they do like to impress the
girls and to smoke dope in the locker room. They have no respect for
authority and totally ignore Coach Saroka in the first part of the
picture. Imagine a practice where the kids just dribble, shot as they
like, and literally not doing anything their coach asks. They actually
turn their back on her and do not listen to her at all.
Eventually of course, and soon after the obligatory scene where
someone is shot which serves make the kids wake up, they begin to
respect their new coach and even start to win some. You can probably
write the rest of the picture yourself.
In a vast wasteland, there is something special about the show.
The performance by Rhea Perlman manages to stand out in a pedestrian
script with plodding direction. I have never thought of her as having
much talent, but she does shine through this pool of sludge. I think
some of the actors on the basketball team may have some acting ability,
but their parts were such caricatures, that it is hard to say with any
degree of confidence.
SUNSET PARK runs on and on at 1:40. It is rated R for bad
language and for drug usage among teenagers shown as being a cool way
to pass the time when you are bored. I would be happy if teenagers
would pass on this show, but I guess it would be okay for mature ones.
Actually, I think the intended demographics for the show is probably
males between the ages of 13 and 18. I found nothing new here other
than a fine performance by Perlman so I am giving the film a thumbs
down and awarding it * 1/2.
Copyright © 1996 Steve Rhodes