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A flawed film that still flies.
ericb3364 May 2003
My two favorite Spike Lee movies are "Clockers" and "He Got Game" and they share similarities: both are about guys trying to keep integrity amidst characters whose primary motives are to persuade him to leave the path.

"He Got Game" gets the edge because I love basketball and because I'm a sucker for well done father-son conflicts. The basketball parts of this movie are absolutely brilliantly shot. Most sports movies share two commonalities: completely ridiculous storylines and actors who throw like sissies. He Got Game avoids both.

Okay, some parts of the story are hoky, but allowable. But what makes this movie work, similar to "Clockers" is that you get sucked into a main character whose nobility is tested at every turn. Will Jesus Shuttlesworth make it through the maze or fall prey to it? And will he be able to recognize that his father is not just one more flesh peddler? It makes for good drama. But above that, the basketball scenes just completely rock. They're examples of absolutely masterful cinematography and editing. In fact, the movie has some of the best montage sequences every put on film. Seriously.

Denzel is excellent in this movie. He plays a Jeckyll and Hyde and plays both sides well. This conflicted character was very easy to root for. (I can identify.) NBA perennial All-Star Ray Allen, while more than a little stiff at times, holds his own as a non-actor in a dramatic role.

He Got Game is a flawed piece of work: parts drag, it's not without its hokiness, and the subplot with Denzel and Jojovovich didn't quite fit. But the essential storylines work and play true: you believe in a conflict between father and son and you root for a high school basketball player who requires the wisdom of an adult to avoid the flesh peddlers. Kudos to Spike for not trying to hit us over the had with his message, but letting it unravel naturally.
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A fascinating performance by Denzel Washington in a solid film.
Rigor4 November 1998
Denzel Washington has one of his greatest charcaters in Jake Shuttlesworth in this compelling film by Spike Lee. Jake is a man serving a life sentence for the accidental murder of his wife during a domestic dispute. The dispute centered around Jake's aggressive coaching of his young son Jesus who he is obsessed with turning into a basketball star. As the film opens we learn that Jesus (effectively played by Ray Allen) has indeed become a high school basketball star and is being now aggressively pursued by University teams and commercial agents. In a somewhat fanciful, yet unfortunately believable plot device the Governor promises Jake early release from prison if he can convince his son to go to Big State. Much of this film is amazingly well executed my only regret comes around some of the gender politics of the film (many of the female characters are underdeveloped and/or cartoonishly stereotyped). This is particularly unfortunate because the film has so much to say about the intersections of patriarchy/economic injustice/racism that I wish Spike Lee could have been a little more consistent with his development of the women characters (one notable exception is a brilliantly realized performance by Milla Javovich as a prostitute that rooms next to Jake). This said the film is still an important accomplishment and should be seen.
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A Great Movie for Anyone Who Plays Ball at Any Level
thekino17 January 2005
I recently watched this movie for the first time, and as a 19 year old black male it spoke to me. However, I can see this being a film that everyone can appreciate. Especially now, with Lebron James and other upcoming HS athletes, you really see the other side of life that only they know.

This movie detailed the life of the #1 basketball star in HS, and the issues he deals with before he announces his plans for the future, further complicated by his father's contingent release from jail.

A GREAT movie, don't let the votes fool you, it's not a 6.5/10, more like 8.5.
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Who's wiser, the player or the father?
nforgione0813 December 2004
He got game is an exceptional story about a basketball player who quarrels with family issues and strives towards his dream. Directed by Spike Lee, this movie takes an in depth look at exactly how many variables are involved when being the MVP, and how a man can grow up and assess these circumstances.

Ray Allen plays a character who's name is Jesus Shuttlesworth. At a young age, his father pressed him dramatically to be the best he could be. However by mistake kills Jesus's mother and is sent to prison. The troubled child eventually grows up to become one for the best players in the nation. Now the drama builds up. When the decision to go pro or join a college team is just around the corner, Jesus's father (played by Denzel Washington) is let out of jail to convert his son to a specific school or else the father is returned to jail, it leaves Jesus with a daunting task. The reconcile between the father and son is what eventually allows Jesus to become a real man and face his problems.

The idea that a boy cannot live without his father plays a defined role in this movie. Jesus grows up with the responsibilities of taking care of his sister, who is several years younger than he is. While it appears that Jesus has all of the support in the world, Spike Lee does a terrific job of accentuating how they are really leeches. All the people want are money, fame, and fortune; which is all possible through Jesus. The reason the father plays such a key role is because although he needs Jesus's help, he isn't interested in that. He really loves his son.

Although Spike Lee did some amazing work with this movie especially with the inner city sequences, as well as the use of colors and poetry to his advantage for getting his ideas across to the audience, several scenes were unneeded which seemed overly explicit. Although these are truly issues that can ruin a famous person, they seemed almost too graphic to be seen by a general audience. What Spike does so well is keeping the real connections with the street, and enabling the audience to see exactly what the character is going through by using several techniques.

Colors in the movie such as red, green, and black symbolize power, pain, and respect between different characters. While Jesus hates his name, his father named him that through a basketball player that was how he put it, "the truth." This movie proves that in real life, you can benefit more by forgiving, and not forgetting.

Overall I would recommend this film to anyone who wants to see a unique, intellectual film that will make you think about your present situation, as well as allowing you to know the difficulties that come with fame.
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Well Played
jhendrickson0810 December 2004
Spike Lee's He Got Game is a beautifully shot and well-executed exploration of the role that the sport of basketball plays in the relationship between a father and his estranged son. At the outset, having not seen very many other Spike Lee movies, I didn't really know what to expect or what to compare this film to. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the overall quality of the plot and the cinematography that composed this film. Furthermore, I really liked the definitive sense of Spike's style that was quite apparent throughout.

Told through flashbacks that reveal the plot throughout the course of the movie, He Got Game is about Jake Shuttlesworth (Denzel Washington) and his basketball-star son, Jesus (Ray Allen). Jake is in jail under mysterious circumstances, yet can get out of jail if he is able to convince Jesus to choose to play basketball at a specific school, namely the state governor's alma mater. Released for a week in order to complete the daunting task, he hounded by probation officers, and does a lot of things that he couldn't do in jail, such as have a light dalliance with Milla Jovovich's slightly-unnecessary prostitute character, Dakota Burns. Denzel, as usual, excellently handles his role as the intense father, and is utterly believable in both his emotion-laden and his violent, angry scenes.

Ray Allen's portrayal of Jesus is also an interesting and well-played usage of the strong dichotomy of masculinity in the sport of basketball. He very clearly shows the purer and more tender side of his character through his love for his younger sister, whom he lives with and takes care of. Yet he is torn between that and the glittering, vice-infested world that his ability at basketball brings him ever closer to. At times he does even succumb to the cloying ploys of others, and there is a particularly raunchy scene as evidence of this. Allen carefully and quietly allows the audience to see the conflicts between sensitivity and machoism that exist in his life, as a result of basketball.

Probably one of the more interesting ways in which this film is set up is through the use of comparative shots that allow the similarities of Jake and Jesus's actions to show. Jesus tries so hard to distance himself from his father, yet the shots and the camera framing show just how alike they both really are. I also particularly enjoyed the use of color and contrasts that appeared throughout. For instance when Jesus and his errant girlfriend LaLa (Rosario Dawson) are talking at the end of the film, both their faces vividly reflect a shade of jealous green from the amusement park lights.

Overall this film is a very good spin on the basketball sports movie, yet with no huge stadiums or big games to win the championship, like what usually constitutes a basketball movie. Instead, the two main characters go through much self-analysis and introspective maturing, something that is quite rare for sports-playing men in film to do. I liked the strong use of color and the well-framed shots, and especially enjoyed Denzel Washington's brooding performance. A classic, must-see movie for anyone interested in cinematography or film.
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A dark and unsettling film about basketball
Agent1020 May 2002
It finally happened, and the movie we all thought Spike Lee would make became reality. With Lee's own little foray into the basketball world, I always wondered when he would create a story which reflected his unique views of the game. While sometimes over sensationalized, he depicted a seedy world comprised of two-faced individuals all the way down to the seedy high school coach to the professional agent. I also felt it depicted some very frank images of the cultural aspects of athletics, the sex, the money and the little freebies. While the film didn't need the story between Denzel Washington and Milla Jovovich, it was strong in most aspects. It was a bit of a change of pace for Spike Lee, considering the graininess of the film stock and the rather mundane colors. Also, Ray Allen had one of the best pro athletes-turned-actor performances in a long time.
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Flawed but always interesting
bob the moo13 July 2003
Jesus Shuttlesworth is the number one hope for college basketball and has offers from colleges and sports agents ringing non-stop. His father is in jail for the manslaughter of his wife but is allowed out by the Governor for 4 days with a promise of further leniency if he can convince his son to go to Big State University. However Jesus has never forgiven him and this pressure, on top of everything else, is the last thing he needs.

I'm never too sure what I'm going to take away from this film each time I watch it, as it does tend to try and cover a lot of ground. Is the film about father/son relationship? Is it about the commercialisation of school sports? Or pressure on young athletes? It's hard to be sure and I'm not sure that Lee is totally sure either. As such it often leaves me searching for an adequate way to summarise what I just watched. Regardless I do feel that the film manages to cover a lot of bases well. The stuff about the sports system is well worked without ramming down your throat – the exaggeration (or is it?) of the characters and scenarios is good and makes for good satire of sorts.

The central relationship between Jake and Jesus is also worked well through several key scenes throughout the film. It leaves questions open during the film and at the end, but I guess there aren't always answers for everything and that's the way it is. The dynamic between the two is good though and it makes for an interesting plot – even though it does often feel like a subplot behind the basketball stuff. Other bits of the film don't fare as well. The two romantic strands are not as good as they should be – certainly Jake's scenes with Dakota are less than inspiring.

The cast are all pretty good. Allen does OK but occasionally looks out of his depth with the talented cast. The array of basketball players and associates all add colour whether as themselves or playing characters. Washington carries the majority of the film and shows his ability in a difficult role – he became the heart of the film for me even though I'm sure the intention was for that to be Jesus. Dawson plays well despite being eye candy for the majority, she does have better scenes near the end of the film. The support cast have a few Lee regulars including an amusing Turturro, a convincing Palagonia and a blink and you'll miss her Jennifer Esposito.

Overall this is not a perfect film as it overstretches itself a little and doesn't manage to deal with everything as well as it could have done. Ironically the overstretching is also a plus point as, every time I watch it, it gives me something else to concentrate on. Not Lee's finest work but a good film about his other passion with plenty of other stuff thrown in behind it.
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The most beautiful sports movie of all time
Dockelektro26 September 2001
We could see just one more story about a man who loves his son, but which suffers from various handicaps, like being on parole and being watched all the time, like having no wife anymore due to killing her, and like his son being one of the most stellar basketball players of his time and this man being truck-loaded with the burden of convincing him to go to college. The film marches to the pace of the two leads, Jake Shuttlesworth (Denzel Washington) and Jesus Shuttlesworth (real-life NBA player Ray Allen, which makes a startling debut), as they have continuous face-offs: Jesus won't accept that he has a father, and won't listen to him, being more interested in becoming an NBA star, as the managers, the limelights, the fame and the fortune keep calling him like the chant of the sirens. Jesus is a young boy with a foot on each side. And he is facing options, choices he will have to make, and traps he will have to avoid. As a friend of his says (in the movie's most memorable quote) "How do you spell pussy? H. - I. - V.". This could be one more tale of choosing between college or fame and fortune, ths could be one more tale of a destroyed father-son relationship, but this is Spike Lee, and the treatment is totally different. It starts with an incredible hommage to basketball, shot like a picture poem, to the sounds of Aaron Copland, whose music flows through the whole movie and makes it look more beautiful and poetic. A characteristic Spike Lee movie, which introduces us to a new way of facing sport dramas. To be cherished.
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A real victory for film making, but not without it's drawbacks.
fingerscut11 August 2006
It's hard to write a review for a sports movie, there's just a different standard for them. Their plots are usually contrived to a level of laser precision. They seem almost designed to make you feel good, which while admirable in the scheme of life, just isn't good film making.

For us sports fans, a sports film that comes across as 'above average' instantly becomes classic. This hardly seems fair, just because the film had some scenes of athletic competion doesn't mean it shouldn't have to face the same standards as the rest of the silver screen.

But this is a movie that goes against that grain. It's sincerely good by anyone's standards. The acting, even that of NBA Star Ray Allen's, is on-par with anything else out there. Bonus points for any film where Denzel Washington isn't playing Denzel Washington(even though I enjoy many of those films).

Beautifully shot, the cinematography throws a pinpoint assist to the script and makes normally great scenes memorable and occasionally transcendent. The film hits with such power that it really exposes other sports movies for the fluff that they really are. Spike Lee manages to create a film that, while deep in the world of basketball, still can appeal to a non-sports fan. Unlike the 2006 USA Team, this movie is destined for gold! And, my apologies for the "Assist" thing, there's really no excuse. Same the the "Gold" thing. Still, watch the movie. 8 of 10.
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natethegreat-072913 June 2021
Full of awkward, clunky dialogue. The pacing is slow and full of odd little montages, especially the gratuitous nudity filled tirade care of Big Time Willie. On top of all that I'd hoped for a good soundtrack care of Public Enemy, nah, a couple good tunes but the rest of the soundtrack seems like it was created for a completely different movie. It doesn't flow at all; speaking of which, what an odd ending.
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Fantastic performance by Washington in film that doesn't quite support him
Hound-222 October 1998
I had to remind myself several times Denzel Washington was an actor and that he was playing a character named Jake Shuttlesworth--his performance is that good. I'd give him the Academy Award for Best Actor. I'm serious--he's amazing. In terms of the film, it isn't quite good enough to support his performance. (We are expected to believe there's no one looking out for Jesus [everyone in the film has an ulterior motive], and Jesus himself is too much of a saint.) Definitely worth watching, though--any Spike Lee film usually is. But I'm annoyed at Lee: he's too good a director to insert the MTV-style shots in this film. Unlike so many who have tried to cover basketball before, however, Lee knows the game. This gives (the all-white) Hoosiers a run for its money as the best basketball film… of course, there isn't much competition.
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Pretty lousy
CAM-321 April 2000
Overall this movie pretty much sucked, its kind of boring and contrary to what some people say, All-Star Ray Allen is a terrible actor and detracted a lot from the power of the movie, especially when he is paired with the awesome force of Denzel Washington. On the plus side the boy who played young Jesus Shuttlesworth was very similar to Allen... also a terrible actor. Denzel Washington is once again amazingly convincing in his role, this time as a mostly ignorant father with some intriguing wisdom who was sent to prison for accidentally killing his own wife (that scene is ridiculous, unless his wife had a completely separate unnoticed brain tumor that coincidentally hemorrhaged just as Denzel pushed her a whole two feet into the stove.) Other pluses in the movie are an amazing scene involving an agent who talks a great game and Laker Rick Fox, a much more natural actor than Allen, who makes a cameo in an amusing scene as a black college baller who likes his chocolate white. The scenes between Denzel Washington and Milla Jovovich are very nicely done (especially the work by Denzel) although it seems odd that a bum who killed his wife and a cheap tramp shacked up in a sleazy hotel would be two of the most attractive people on the planet. Unfortunately the movie's handful of great scenes are buried by areas of ill-conceived situations and dialogue, blaring music that is poorly chosen and a vintage Spike-Lee-totally-wacked ending.
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Ben-14721 April 1999
For a filmmaker that shows so much promise at times, Spike Lee has thrown up a real stinker with "He Got Game." I will, however, begin by saying that the idea for the film and one of the performances given (Denzel Washington) are not bad at all. Also, some of Lee's shot decisions and use of different filming techniques are adventurous and laudable. BUT... I am shocked to see so many good reviews of this movie, and for several reasons A., the dialogue and script, in general, are trite and poorly written. Perhaps Spike would be better off getting someone else to write his movies. Truly poor. B., the premise, notably the "deal" given to Washington by the governor, is absolutely far-fetched and ill-conceived. This is a premise that could only be accepted if it were from an established director (which Lee is). C., as mentioned many times by other reviewers, Lee's use of sex and portrayal of women seems misogynistic and baseless. Should the sexual temptations of a man in Jesus' position be addressed in this film? Yes. But in this way? Give me a break. I think Lee is still smarting from getting turned down for the prom too many times. Quite frankly, this movie is poorly conceived and disjointed. So much so that the ending, which could be inventive, leaves us scratching our heads. It's time for Spike to start living up to his potential instead of coasting off the merits of his first film attempts.
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Fouled Out Pretty Quickly.
tfrizzell16 October 2003
Director Spike Lee's ode to basketball is one of those frustrating experiences that appears to be a possible slam dunk, but ultimately ends up fouling out mainly because of an uneven story and a nearly invisible tone. Denzel Washington is serving a prison sentence for killing his wife in a domestic dispute. While away, his son has grown to become high school basketball stand-out Ray Allen (a real-life NBA player). Governor Ned Beatty promises to shorten Washington's sentence if he can convince Allen to attend Beatty's alma mater. He has one week to accomplish his goal. Naturally Allen is outraged by seeing his father again and creates a shell to keep Washington out of his life. At first this seems like a good thing, but what if all of Allen's so-called friends (coaches, relatives, girls, agents and fans) are the true antagonists here and Washington is the flawed hero? Lee is never sure what he wants to do here. The movie plays out like a chaotic basketball game with lots of action and memorable action, but in the end you do not want either team to win. Washington and Allen's relationship takes up some airtime, but so do others that leave almost as fast as they appear. The corruption in collegiate athletics and within sports agencies is also given an interesting glimpse, but alas those topics are not explored completely. "He Got Game" looked like it would match the brilliance of William Friedkin's "Blue Chips" (a flawed, but important movie), but just does not seem to have the coaching necessary. Washington is impressive and handles the material as well as he can. Allen is a complete revelation. Anfernee Hardaway had stolen the show from Nick Nolte in "Blue Chips" and Allen pretty much does the same thing in this one. Ray Allen seems to have unlimited potential in front of the camera and his gift could be developed more fully after his playing career ends. I have said for years that Ray Allen should be the best player in the NBA, but he has ultimately disappointed me throughout his professional career. Allen is not the problem here though. Lee's sporadic direction and a meandering script end up sending "He Got Game" to the locker room way too soon. 2.5 out of 5 stars.
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A well intentioned film that doesn't quite work
FilmStud7 April 1999
Denzel Washington and Ray Allen were excellent but other than that I didn't really think this film worked. The plot was simple enough: convince your son to go to a certain college and you will get reduced time off your sentence. I expected Spike Lee to do a b job with bringing father and son closer together. It is typical Spike Lee style to make a film about basketball when the director himself is seen at Madison Square Garden watching the Knicks play, to have basketball players starring in his film. Another problem that this film has is the fact that it has more than enough graphic sexual content and language. It could have been a lot better if the sexual content some of the language were edited out of the script. In my opinion, the basketball players overshadowed the regular actors except for Denzel. Everybody from Rick Fox to Walter McCarty did a better job acting than the rest of the cast, and that would be the only reason I would recommend He Got Game. Game
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A masterpiece
goombajenkins31 October 2019
Shocked to see so many Haters of this movie. Like Jesus, this movie is the truth. People are saying the plot is incoherent. The visuals are pure poetry, the script is magnificent and real, and the characters and acting are impeccable. It doesn't spell everything out for you, but allows you to feel your way through. Brilliant, brilliant picture, in all regards. Leaves me speechless.
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MichaelOates17 May 2004
Denzel Washington and Ray Allen were excellent but other than that I didn't really think this film worked.

The plot was simple enough: convince your son to go to a certain college and you will get reduced time off your sentence. I expected Spike Lee to do a b job with bringing father and son closer together. I fear Spike Lee "He Got Game" for several reasons and none of them include giving the audience a good product

Another problem that this film has is the fact that it has more than enough graphic sexual content and language. It could have been a lot better if the sexual content and some of the language were edited out of the script.

With the exception of the two leads, basketball stars such as Rick Fox and Walter McCarty overshadowed the rest of the cast. For this reason alone, I would recommend "He Got Game."
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"He Got Game" - The Father, the Son, the Holy Game
dee.reid22 February 2008
The Spike Lee joint "He Got Game" is one of the director's most passionate films because it's about his own personal passion for the love of basketball, one of the richest and most mythic of sports. But to Lee, it's also the most holy and with that said, "He Got Game" has no shortage of religious undertones, symbolism, and imagery.

Now, as a sometime fan of the game and occasional player of the game (though I was never really any good, and former Chicago Bulls player Michael Jordan ranks as my greatest athlete), I can see why Lee feels the way he does about the game and his film. "He Got Game" looks at the sport, the behind-the-scenes corruption and capitalism, greed, temptations, the relationship between father and son, and the Holy Game.

But "He Got Game" is mostly about the relationship between the father and the son. Denzel Washington (in one of his best performances, and the third time he has worked with Lee) is Jake Shuttlesworth, a convict doing time for the manslaughter of his wife. Looking for a chance at redemption, he gets it when the governor, an adamant basketball fan, hears that Jake's son is the number-one basketball prospect in the country. In a once-in-a-lifetime chance, the governor, using the warden (Ned Beatty) as his go-to guy, agrees to reduce Jake's sentence if he can get his son to attend the governor's alma mater, Big State University.

In order to do this, Jake is given a one-week temporary release from prison, with two parole officers (Jim Brown and Joseph Lyle Taylor) watching his every move. The deal is easier said done. Jake's son, Jesus (Ray Allen, of the Milwaukee Bucks), has nothing but contempt for him and while his younger sister Mary (Zelda Harris) and cousin Booger (Hill Harper) have forgiven him for his sins, Jesus's heart is still filled with hatred and resentment for his father. It just becomes a question of whether or not the son will forgive the sins of the father, and whether or not the father and the son can come together as one.

"He Got Game" is a powerful movie, rich in performances, imagery, and story. It is true that Lee has never made a "bad" film in his 20+ years as a filmmaker. Every film he makes is a new experience and will always keep you watching. While suffering from an overly long running time, a few under-developed characters (like Milla Jovovich's Dakota) and occasionally uneven storytelling, "He Got Game," like all of Lee's work, keeps you watching.

It's mostly the father/son angle of the story that kept me watching. Washington is one of the strongest actors working in the industry today (some of his best moments are flashbacks to Jesus's childhood and why Jake pushed him so hard to be the best ballplayer that he could be, and the reasons behind Jake's incarceration, which are revealed to be far more complicated than first thought); while it is true that Allen is no great actor (he is an athlete, after all), he is at his best during his scenes with Washington. On his own, it's a bit of mixed effort. Lee's composer has frequently been Terence Blanchard, but replacing him this time is the emotive, driving score by Aaron Copland, blaring up during many of the film's strongest moments. Rap group Public Enemy also composed many of the songs appearing on the soundtrack; it marked their triumphant return to the rap game after a few disappointing albums.

While I don't consider myself much of a religious person (despite a Baptist Christian upbringing), there is a lot of religious allegory in "He Got Game." Like his biblical namesake, Jesus is seen as the savior, the second coming and the resurrection of the game, and there are a number of temptations, many of which are of the flesh, that he has to overcome - from the dangers of being a young black man on Coney Island (where so many other promising talents have become victims), to the cash hand-outs, promises of fame by bypassing college altogether and going straight to the NBA, and finally to the young women luring him to the big universities with questionable "recruiting" practices, and there is also the sultry, Delilah-like girlfriend Lala (Rosario Dawson), who states point-blank that she's out to get hers too because once Jesus goes pro, she'll be forgotten. The only person capable of steering the son clear of these dangers is the guidance of the father, who's seeking his own redemption as well as the forgiveness and love of the son.

"He Got Game" remains one of Spike Lee's most passionate and cinematically mature efforts, despite a few missteps along the way. The ending is a great step from the usual "reality" of most traditional Hollywood endings, yet a further sign that Lee is maturing as a filmmaker. It's powerful, it's moving, and it has game. "He Got Game" proves once and for all, that the man behind the camera also has game.

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He may have game, but he didn't bring it with him...
chrisbrown645321 May 2002
I'm not sure what to think about He Got Game. I went in expecting something, and when I left the theater I didn't feel like those expectations had been met. Can't explain why exactly, but the movie didn't seem to have the power I expected from a Spike Lee joint. He Got Game stars Denzel Washington as Jake Shuttlesworth. Jake was sent to prison a few years back for murdering his wife. While he was gone, his son Jesus (Ray Allen, former Big East player of the year from the University of Connecticut) has become the best high school basketball player in the country. The governor of the state wants Jake to persuade Jesus to go to the governors' alma mater, and if Jake can do it, he'll get out of prison earlier than expected. Jesus has never forgiven his father for what he did, so when Jake returns into Jesus' life, things don't go well. The ending was not much of a surprise, and the movie itself wasn't done as well as I had hoped.

I didn't know if the movie was about the relationship between Jesus and Jake, or if it was about the pressures the top high school basketball players have to go through when deciding whether to go to college or go pro. The relationship between father and son seemed strange, and I think a lot of that had to do with the inexperience of Allen as an actor, and the writing of the film. Sometimes their relationship seemed horrible, sometimes it seemed like they got along OK. I don't think Allen had a lot of range of emotions. He could speak the lines with emotion, but couldn't act the emotion at the same time, if that makes sense. As far as the pressures high school players feel, sometimes it came through, sometimes it didn't. The scene with the agent at his house, was very powerful. But the scene where Jesus argues with his uncle in his uncle's apartment just dragged on and on. I didn't get a feel for the pressure because the movie didn't show it. The writing suggested it, but it was never really portrayed on screen.

And what the hell was up with the happy hooker? What was her point? She just shows up at times, has sex with Jake, they talk, she's gone. Any scene with her in it was completely pointless and took away from the rest of the movie. I just wish that there was more to the film. You know how sometimes you see a movie and you know what the filmmaker is trying to get across, but something is missing, you just can't put your finger on it? That's how I felt about He Got Game. What could have been a great film, turned out to be a so-so film.
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Spike Goes to Disney
paul sloan2 December 2000
Spike Lee makes a movie for Disney.It was only a matter of time before Spike tried his hand at a basketball film and this is a worthwhile if flawed effort. Denzel Washington is great as Jake and the film is directed brilliantly. However half way through it is easy to see how the whole thing is going to end and the whole finish disappoints. Still there is much to enjoy here such as the use of Aaron Copland's stirring music and the towering performance of Mr Washington.
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Music Foul
teddykupferberg30 June 2020
Spike always made interesting choices when it comes to scores and incidentals. But this is just bizarre. Whoever scored this film almost destroyed it. Nearly every minute of exterior footage is drowned in incomprehensible symphonic spooge. During important plot furthering scenes there is loud unnecessary schmaltz. It is distracting as hell and at times even drowns out dialogue. Really weird. Movie is wonderful. Performances memorable. Unique and vital story telling. Maybe a hip hop soundtrack was too obvious. But all them horns...wtf? Gotta check SOS and Jungle Fever. See if they're this ridiculous...
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Powerful, but uneven
patty81026 December 1998
Denzel Washington's performance is amazing, and a delight to watch. He is so good that I was able to forget for long minutes that it was a movie while under his spell. The story is plausible enough, and beautifully filmed, although I can't help but wonder if the temptations that face a rising basketball star are quite as vicious as pictured here. Three things subtracted from what would otherwise be a real work of art: (1) The large amount of graphic sexual content really wasn't necessary. (2) The point of character Jesus Shuttlesworth's first name was really not clear, yet it was ceaselessly trumpeted and highlighted; it was a distracting, muddy concept. (3) The ending was extremely disappointing and bizarre.

Up until the very last few minutes, I was entirely taken in by this film. The ending, however, left me feeling somewhat ripped off. Still, I found myself thinking about the movie for hours afterwards, and even lying awake at night trying to come up with the ending that I would like to have seen.

I wasn't sure what Aaron Copeland's music had to do with the urban black setting of the story, and I wished that there was a lot more of Public Enemy.
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Disappointing flop
elderfarr20 May 2009
This movie is stupid. It is long and drawn out. Ray Allen should be ashamed of himself for the scenes he was in. Millions of kids look up to him and he is in a scene like that. I wonder what his daughter will think when she gets older and sees that scene. Unbelievable! The plot was just another stupid sports movies. The only good sports movies are true stories. That way it is not the typical same old repeated stuff that seem to surface in every basketball movie. Spike Lee is a joke and so is this movie. I was really excited to see this movie but if I wanted a porno I would have walked down to Blockbuster and got one. I lost every bit of respect for Ray Allen that I had.
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mrfrane1 December 1998
The film has its moments, but for the most part it rattles around from place to place, relies on some fairly stupid cliches, and (as usual with Spike Lee) treats women like dirt. In fact, the only real function of women in this film is to (a) take off their shirts, (b) die, (c) take off their shirts, (d) take off their shirts. Oh, yeah, there's a hooker with a heart of gold (who takes off her shirt), and a great-looking teenage gold-digger (who takes off her shirt). And some entirely gratuitous white girls with huge breasts (who take off their shirts, duh).

And then ends with a completely out-of-character, inexplicable cliche so, I guess, we can feel a little better about some of the characters (because most of them are jerks).

This is the same guy who made the documentary about the little girls killed in Birmingham? You have to be kidding!
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Spike Lee Misses Mark With Unnecessary Film
jwb0219 July 1999
"He Got Game" was a horrible film. First of all, Ray Allen? You can play basketball, but you can't act. Sorry. The amount of graphic sexual content was unnecessary and revolting. They made getting into college look like an orgy. If you haven't already seen this movie, then be glad. The ending was very confusing, and the whole movie was too. I give it a 3 out of 10, and only because Denzel Washington is so great.
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