Sunset Park (1996)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Sports Drama  |   Release Date - Apr 26, 1996 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 100 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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The point of these "rookie coach saves fledgling team" movies is that this particular coach is an odd match with these particular players. That's the primary (only?) hook that makes a story like Sunset Park worth re-telling, yet again. But Rhea Perlman? It takes a little getting used to. Still, it makes more sense that the former Carla Tortelli would be matching attitude with inner-city basketball players than the other endeavor her character envisions: opening a restaurant in St. Croix. It's even less likely that her coaching money would supply just enough of a financial boost to enable this dream, or that she'd even be hired in the first place, without a clue how to coach basketball. Starting off on such a wrong foot, Sunset Park takes awhile to get going. But it does eventually round itself into a perfectly competent inspirational sports movie. The problem is, the cinematic landscape is littered with perfectly competent inspirational sports movies, and a movie can't be called good simply for adhering to a reliable formula and avoiding any serious gaffes. Perlman falls into this same "perfectly competent" category, and at this stage of her career, owes her involvement to her husband, Danny DeVito, who serves as a producer on the movie. Better than Perlman are a couple of her players, particularly Fredro Starr as Shorty, a pint-sized talker who's trying to get a girlfriend. One senses a couple others actors might have stood out, such as a young Terrence Howard, if the script considered their stories worth telling. As for the basketball itself, the choreography is pretty lazy, as 95% of the points seem to be scored on easy layups. Just one of the many reasons Sunset Park disappears into total sports cliché anonymity.