The Air up There Review

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A basketball talent scout is anxious to take over as coach but when the present one doubts his potential he is eager to prove him wrong. After seeing a 6 ft-plus basketball player in an African tourist video, he flies out there determined to find the next big player and impress his boss.


Kevin Bacon is Jimmy Dolan, an ex-basketball star turned assistant college coach desperate to take control of the team when his boss retires. The coach, however, is rapidly losing faith in Jimmy's ability to attract new talent and when he blows the latest important signing, Jimmy decides to look further afield for new stars. Thinking he's spotted the player of his dreams on a missionary video shown at the college, he stomps off to Africa, showing scant regard for language and cultural barriers, in search of the six-foot ten-inch Winabi warrior Saleh (Maina). But his plans come a cropper when he's unable to simply whisk Saleh back to the States with promises of wealth and fame. Instead he must win the trust of the elders of the tribe and help settle a long­standing feud with the neighbouring tribe — with a game of basketball.

Bacon, so long the supporting player, isn't required to flex his acting muscles too much as the brash American who's in no doubt that his flashy, fast-talking ways will impress the ancient Winabi tribe, while Maina (a Nairobi basketball star making his acting debut) copes amiably as the object of Jimmy's ruthless desire.

For a comedy it's a bit economical with the snappy one-liners, relying mainly on the sight of this reckless spirit bulldozing his way into a very alien culture. This being standard Hollywood fare it requires the obligatory feel-good ending, but director Glaser has captured the basketball scenes well, and with a backdrop that will do the African tourist industry absolutely no harm, this should keep you entertained.

Whereas other 90's stalwarts such as Cruise, Gibson and Clooney successfully balanced big-budget blockbusters with low-key indie fare, Bacon wasn't always so successful. In one of his rare turns as leading man, he picked a distinctly average film, with not enough jokes or excitement. However average it is, it still passes an hour and a half.