Inspirational movies are extremely hard to pull off. They either come across as touching and heartfelt, or sappy and over-dramatized. In the late summer of 2008, a small movie titled The Longshots got its release to the silver screen. Most of you may have missed its theatrical running. With a low-budget, crappy trailer, and a rapper-turned-director guiding the story, many were hesitant to even give The Longshots a fighting chance at the box office. This is unfortunate for such a surprisingly touching, feel-good family feature.

During a time of depression and poverty, a former high school football star named Curtis Plummer (Ice Cube) transforms his down-and-out niece Jasmine (Keke Palmer) into a winning quarterback for the Minden Browns. The film is based on the true-life story of Jasmine Plummer, the first female to ever play in a Pop Warner Football League.

It’s a little clichéd, a little funny, and a little warm with a lot of heart. Though the film travels through a well-worn path, it does so with unforced warmth and humor. The Longshots is one of Ice Cube’s most respected and accomplished pieces of work and may be the year’s best non-animated family flick.

Ice Cube just might have found his comfort zone in the family film genre. The on-screen chemistry between rising star Keke Palmer and veteran actor Ice Cube is what makes everything work resoundingly well. It takes strong on-screen chemistry, an unforeseen director (you surprised me Fred Durst), and a cheerful story to create a great family film as opposed to an average one. The film does have a “been there, done that” feeling to it, but you end up overlooking the familiar storyline and taking enjoyment in the uplifting aftermath. It’s a tribute rather than a trite, cinematic exposition of a true-life story. 

This heartwarming family film about the growing relationship of an uncle and his niece, the importance of teamwork, and the value of confidence is a touchdown for the entire family. Keke Palmer is superb and Ice Cube is remarkable. The biggest surprise of all is Fred Durst (commonly known as Limp Biscuit), who does an admirable job of directing.

This easily surpasses expectations of being an average family-based film to being one that inspires, brightens, and lifts the spirits of all those who see it. It’s a great underdog story with sensitive performances by both Ice Cube and Keke Palmer. So who’s to complain about the formulaic plot? These are the type of movies we need. It struck me as the right movie at the right time. Do yourself a big favor and see something sweet natured, inspiring, and worthwhile this year – something like The Longshots.

Extras included on the DVD are incredibly dull and really hurts the DVD as a whole. The making of the film is absent of supporting facts about Jasmine Plummer and details about the process of making the film. The interviews with the real Jasmine Plummer are lifeless, and conversations with Director Fred Durst and actor Ice Cube are essentially a bore. 4/5 stars