All You've Got (2006) / Drama

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language and sensuality
Running Time: 92 min.

Cast: Adrienne Bailon, Sarah Mason, Michael Copon, Ciara, Faizon Love, Taylor Cole, Jennifer Pena, Daniela Alonso, Eduardo Yanez, Efren Ramirez, Barbara Niven, Laila Ali, Datari Turner, Frankie J.
Director: Neema Barnette
Screenplay: K.A. (Karol Ann) Hoeffner
Review published May 23, 2006

I may be a bit generous in my grade for this film, as I'll definitely put this down as a guilty pleasure.  Sometimes movies just hit you the right way on the right day, and today must have been the right day to watch All You've Got.  Sure, it's dumb, but in a fun sort of way, and given the low expectations going into it, I was actually mildly impressed by some of the performances and story elements that manage to work despite the derivative nature of things.  I could have gone either way here, but given that I'm too old and filled with too much testosterone to be part of the film's target demographic, the fact that I mildly enjoyed it for what it is affords it a certain privilege for a recommendation -- but only if you are an MTV, teen romance, or high school sports movie aficionado.

The plot: In Southern California, there are many girls volleyball teams, but only two rank among the nations best, the privileged kid Madonnas and the inner city Phantoms.  Bitter rivals to the end, they find they must join forces when the Madonnas high school is burnt down, resulting in the three best volleyball players joining the Phantoms squad for a chance at national prominence and scholarships.  As if taking away three spots on the roster isn't bad enough, the girls also compete for the same boys and rep in the school, making the team chemistry tenuous at best both on and off the volleyball court.  If they want a chance at the championship, they're going to have to learn to get along, or potentially risk the vaunted USC scholarship they so desperately seek.

The game of volleyball gets a bit of the Bring It On treatment, as we see two competing groups of sassy high school girls vying for the top honors in their sport, except in this case, circumstances force the competitors onto the same team.  Being an MTV production, it has pretty much everything you'd expect, with a pop/hip hop soundtrack, music video style montages, the latest fashions and trendy gear, and appearances by popular musical talents, including a sizable role for crunk princess Ciara, here in her debut role.  While the overall story suffers a bit from the large doses of contrived teenage movie angst and MTV-tainted filler, for its type, All You've Got actually manages to succeed into being surprisingly entertaining, thoughtful, and interesting for occasional spells.  It won't win over film snobs and hard-asses, but if you like teenage dramas and sports films, you may find it to your liking.

All You've Got is directed by longtime television director Neema Barnette (Civil Brand, Sin & Redemption), who imbues the film with a good sense of visual style and energy that should go down well for the typical MTV crowd.  The script is by Karol Ann Hoeffner, who has made a career writing screenplays mostly for a juvenile girl audience, and despite the clichéd sports film climax, she provides enough interesting new twists on the old genre to make the story not feel too derivative.  The cast is mostly cast on their looks or association with the music industry, but given the fact that many in the movie aren't professional actors, there are some difficult acting moments that are actually pulled off, with strong spunky performance by 3LW's Adrienne Bailon, who also appeared in another MTV sports film, Coach Carter.

All You've Got isn't going to win any awards by any means, and it certainly won't impress many outside of its target demographic.  It also starts off quite bad, but it does get better, and by the end of the film, if you make it that far, you might actually find yourself with a rooting interest in what happens to the characters once it is all said and done.  All in all, the good does manage to outweigh the bad sufficiently enough that those who like the films that stem from the Bring It On style of teen films will probably find enough here to justify their time and money spent. 

Qwipster's rating:

©2006 Vince Leo