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Go Smelters!

It seems this is the summer of kiddie sports flicks. Will Ferrell's soccer flick Kicking and Screaming was released earlier this summer. The release of Billy Bob Thornton's remake of The Bad News Bears is right around the corner. Rounding out the summer kiddie sports flicks is the latest, Martin Lawrence's Rebound. While unquestionably better than Kicking and Screaming, Rebound in many ways resembles the NBA's Golden State Warriors. It's a film that periodically entertains and excites, but falls just short in the end.

A self-consumed and temperamental collegiate basketball coach finds himself unemployed after running afoul of an opposing team's mascot. Specifically, Coach Roy's (Martin Lawrence) errant kick of a basketball during a tirade results in the tragic death of a bird (how proud Bobby Knight would be). It's an absurd opening to a film that consistently delivers more of the same.

Drummed out of the fictitious college league (NCBA), Coach Roy's only hope is to somehow redeem himself in the eyes of the NCBA and get himself reinstated. However, due to his perpetually outrageous antics, no one wants to take Roy on. Fortunately, the St. Vernon Smelters (one of the most bizarre names for a sports team ever conceived) middle school team is in dire need of a new coach.

Martin Lawrence is perfectly cast for the role of Coach Roy. Roy is smug, smarmy, and self-consumed. Lawrence has proven time and again he is well suited for these kinds of roles. Predictably, we see a somewhat softer, more sensitive side of Coach Roy later in the film. While this latter transformation isn't terribly plausible, Lawrence does the smug and smarmy bit in stellar fashion.

However, the real comedy in this film comes from the ragtag bunch of would be basketball players that comprise 'The Smelters'. These kids embody athletic ineptitude. Ralph (Steven Anthony Lawrence) lives up to his namesake before every game as Coach Roy discovers. Wes (Steven C. Parker) is perhaps the most awkward, uncomfortable center to ever take the floor. The Smelter's female enforcer, "Big Mac" (played by Tara Correa-McMullen) has a gift for laying out opposing opponents (and anyone else who crosses her), but few other gifts on the court.

Rebound unfolds in an entirely predictable and conventional fashion. The film is essentially The Bad News Bears meets Hoosiers. It's palatable only because the story of underachieving, unathletic kids overcoming the odds never really gets old. The other saving grace of Rebound is the kids genuinely are entertaining to watch. Lawrence is also occasionally funny.

However, Rebound falls way short in the believability department. The chances that a highly successful collegiate coach would get banned from the league because of the behavior Roy exhibits is highly unlikely if said college is making money off the team (which is the case). Likewise, the chances that a highly successful collegiate coach would be unable to get a job at a community college, a high school, or in the pros are equally implausible. To complete this triumvirate of implausibility, Roy's transformation at the end of the film is completely unbelievable. It is this implausibility that prevents Rebound from really scoring.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars