Fast Break (1979) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG for language, sexual humor, mild violence and drug use (definitely PG-13 by today's standards)
Running Time: 107 min.
Cast: Gabe Kaplan, Harold Sylvester, Michael Warren, Mavis Washington, Bernard King, Reb Brown, Bert Remsen, Randee Heller, John Chappell, Rhonda Bates, Laurence Fishburne (cameo)
Director: Jack Smight
Screenplay: Sandor Stern
Coming off of his five year stint on the very successful television comedy, "Welcome Back Kotter", Gabe Kaplan makes his attempt to translate his popularity into movies with Fast Break. It would prove to be a familiar role for Kaplan, as once again he plays mentor to a group of delinquent young men, where he wisecracks his way into their hearts, while also doing everything he can to assure their success. Unfortunately, Kaplan's comedic prowess doesn't work when he lacks good material to support him, and Fast Break lives up to its name by falling apart early and never recovering.
Kaplan stars as basketball coach David Greene, who is out of work and desperate for a job at any college that will take him. After what seems to be a long time, only one college bothers to write him back -- Cadwallader University, in rural Nevada. This college is trying to make a name for itself by starting a basketball program, and can't even afford to pay Greene a salary, only offering him $60 for every game he wins and a chance for a $30,000 a year job if he can take whatever team he scrounges up and beat Nevada State, one of the Top 10 collegiate teams in the country. It's a longshot, but Greene is desperate enough to take a chance, so he recruits a crew that consists of three New York inner city African-American men, and one woman pretending to be a man, and transplants them to the all-white college. The team struggles, as finding a fifth man proves difficult, their grades aren't showing enough promise to keep them in school, and they have no idea how they are ever going to play State without being in their division.
Fast Break will probably find a receptive audience for those who enjoyed Kaplan on "Welcome Back Kotter", mostly because it is in keeping with the sophomoric style of that show. It is easy to watch, as most sports comedies are, although the humor never really rises to the level of actually being laugh-out-lout funny. Basketball fans might also enjoy seeing NBA star Bernard King as Hustler, one of the main players of the team.
Fast Break is fast food entertainment, meant strictly for people who want a light, feel-good comedy without having to think. It's wholly vacuous, with heavily contrived situations and a very predictable delivery. Perhaps as an episode of "Kotter", the meager premise might provide for some easy lowbrow laughs, but at nearly two hours, you probably have something better to do with your precious time.
©2005 Vince Leo