I like Queen Latifah. I like her smile, her charm, her big singing voice, her life force, the survivor instinct that has kept her a viable star while Whitney Houston and Halle Berry have flamed out.
I do not like her taste in movie roles. She hasn’t starred in a good movie since “Set It Off” in 1996.
The hard-luck streak extends through her latest, the generic “Just Wright.” Even the title announces, “We’re not really making an effort here.”
Latifah plays a good-natured New Jersey girl, physical therapist by day and avid fan of the Nets by night. Fate and feeble screenwriting place her in a romantic triangle with the basketball team’s star player (hip-hop star Common) and her own pretty, blithely materialistic cousin (Paula Patton).
The relationship between the singers is, sad to say, seriously off-key. Latifah coaches Common through a career-threatening knee injury, but his real problem is lack of spine, or perhaps misplaced crown jewels.
He shuttles between the cousins, as passive as a badminton birdie. He is given to declaring his love on bended knee amid large crowds.
He also wears several tears painted onto his cheeks by the makeup department. This, I submit, is hooey. One does not make it big in the NBA by being a softhearted mooncalf.
For a brief moment (“Chicago,” in 2002) it seemed that Latifah might be getting her movie career on track. Then came the numbskull Steve Martin comedy “Bringing Down the House,” “Scary Movie 3,” “Mad Money” and now this.
Forget twisted knees. Choices like those are career-threatening injuries.