On the surface, Rebound is simply the second of this summer’s trio of films involving a wacko adult coach charged with turning around a lousy pre-high school sports team (Kicking and Screaming and the forthcoming Bad News Bears remake being the others). Yet its formulaic rags-to-roundball glory story also tellingly parallels Martin Lawrence’s deteriorating career. One can’t help but notice the similarities between Lawrence’s professional trajectory—from Def Comedy Jam hotshot and sitcom headliner to the ultra-mugging star of lame “concept” comedies that resemble African-American versions of Pauly Shore duds—and that of his character Roy McCormick, a once-celebrated coach whose unchecked egomania and insanity results in a lifetime ban from college basketball and banishment to the minor leagues of alma matter Mt. Vernon Middle School. There, the Bobby Knight-ish Roy attempts to repair his tantrum-tarnished reputation by instilling the value of teamwork in his stereotypically ragtag group of players (including Steven Anthony Lawrence, who also played an inept athlete in Kicking and Screaming).
Roy eventually transforms himself via teaching into a saintly altruist less concerned with celebrity than with the purity of the game, but Lawrence himself seems to have learned very little from his downward slide into B-level kids’ movies. Hogging the spotlight more greedily than Dennis Rodman in his wedding dress-wearing heyday, Lawrence grunts, groans, grins, struts, and makes weird faces while shepherding his flock into the state finals against an arrogant rival (Patrick Warburton). His endless preening regularly overwhelms Steve Carr’s sloppy film, which has the unimaginative audacity to employ not only Outkast’s “Hey Ya” and House of Pain’s “Jump Around” for upbeat, celebratory scenes, but also Survivor’s cheesy anthem “Eye Of The Tiger” for its closing credit music. Wedged in between Roy’s lessons about defense, the pick-and-roll and ball movement is a romance between the coach and a music teacher/player’s mother (Wendy Raquel Robinson) that features starry-eyed protestations of love like, “You have a pretty smile.” Less attractive, though, is the sight of SNL’s Horatio Sanz, Will and Grace’s Megan Mullally and Arrested Development’s sarcastic Alia Shawkat sullying their good names by participating in this cinematic brick.