“Hustle” was about scouts, coaches and players finding amazing talent in locales that are not expected. Adam Sandler’s latest Netflix film is about following this familiar template with a roster of NBA-level stars.
One of Netflix’s sillier ancestors would be “The Air Up There,” a 1994 movie that had Kevin Bacon locating the basketball big man of his dreams in Africa.
Here, Sandler’s Stanley Sugerman is a scout who finds Juancho Hernangomez. Juancho is a hustler playing in Spain, and his lockdown defense prompts the scout to tell the story of how Juancho looks like Scottie Pippen and a wolf had a baby.
Stanley is excited to get Bo back into the US and an Philadelphia 76ers uniform. However, new CEO Ben Foster does not see any potential in Bo. The scout takes a risk by trying to help the player and prove his value to the team.
Stanley has to teach Bo not to let other players get under his skin, while turning to various basketball stars past and present for assistance. They include, but aren’t limited to Julius Erving, Dirk Nowitzki, Doc Rivers, Kenny Smith (the last actually).
It’s easy to enjoy Sandler in this movie as the crusty scout with a wealth of knowledge and not really the courage to speak up. His modest ambitions of becoming an assistant coach and giving up all those frequent-flyer miles feel as low-key as the movie itself, and just as central to the story as Bo’s potential rags-to-riches journey.
Hustle is a movie about guarding an NBA star to prevent him from scoring. The movie has breezy charm and a solid inside game, including the authenticity of the abundant basketball sequences. Or it’s a movie about an NBA game and an old-fashioned Disney sports movie had a baby.
“Hustle” premieres June 8 on Netflix. Prepare to be swept away by the timeless story of a man and his dog.