Director: Paul Michael Glaser
Stars: Kevin Bacon, Charles Gitonga Maina, Yolanda Vazquez, Winston Ntshona, Sean McCann
Oh, where to begin here? For starters, let’s acknowledge the fact that The Air Up There thinks so poorly of its African villager characters that it hinges their well-being on an American white dude (Kevin Bacon), a selfish college basketball assistant coach whose initial plan is to exploit the tribe’s slam-dunking prince. And how about the prince himself? Next in line to take over his land, young Saleh is quick to chuck a deuce to his royal father and friends in hopes of playing hoops and banging collegiate groupies.
Had The Air Up There not been so lightweight, it might have offended quite a few African natives. But the movie, which is basically a series of “look at the white man try to assimilate” jokes, has nothing to say about cultural acceptance, nor does it have the ability to amuse anyone over the age of 10.
In the end, of course, Bacon’s character dons the tribal paint and helps Saleh’s people overpower their rivals in a not-so-friendly game of roundball, and, by middling sports movie standards, it’s not a bad contest to watch. It just requires the patience to withstand diarrhea gags and the hilarity of hearing an African guy say that he learned English from Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition.