Starring Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Chris Tucker, Chris Messina, Viola Davis, Marlon Wayans, Matthew Maher, Julius Tennon, Damian Young, Tom Papa, Joel Gretsch, Gustaf Skarsgård, Barbara Sukowa, Jessica Green, Dan Bucatinsky, Michael O’Neill, Asanté Deshon, Billy Smith, Al Madrigal, Jackson Damon, Gabrielle Bourne and Jay Mohr.
Screenplay by Alex Convery.
Directed by Ben Affleck.
Distributed by Amazon Studios. 112 minutes. Rated R.
Who would have thought it? A movie that is essentially about a big business making shoes would turn out to be pretty damned terrific.
Air takes place in some weird alternate universe – specifically the year 1984 – in which Nike is a pathetic also-ran sneaker company that can’t get people to return their calls. Dwarfed in the athletic shoe biz by their competitors, the hip street-smart brand Adidas and the traditional favorite Converse, the number three brand decided to throw caution to the wind and do anything it took to hitch its wagon to an upcoming basketball star.
That star was Michael Jordan.
Of course, this was when Michael Jordan was pretty much an unknown quantity. Sure, he was a member of a college championship team, and he was drafted that year number three in the NBA draft. However, many players with similar backgrounds have crashed and burned before. In fact, most of the time that is what happens. (Fun trivia fact: the two players drafted above Jordan that year were Akeem Olajuwon and Sam Bowie. Olajuwon became a very good player, although not Michael Jordan good. But who even remembers Sam Bowie?)
However, at the time, Jordan was something of an unknown quantity. But one man saw him as a game-changer – Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon), a scout for Nike who had a gut feeling that this young player could be an all-time great. (It is to the film’s credit that it acknowledges that Vaccaro had similar feelings about prior players which turned out to not work out so well.)
The problem is, young Jordan thinks – as everyone else does – that Nike is not a real force in the market and doesn’t even want to meet with them. So how can Vacarro get him to take them seriously? By going to his mother.
Deloris Jordan (Viola Davis) was really the one running things, it seems. (Smartly, young Michael is mostly shown from afar or from behind in the film, but never really focused on and not talking until the very end.) Despite the breach of etiquette in bypassing Jordan’s agent (played by a wonderfully profane Chris Messina) to speak with the mother, Vacarro is at least able to charm her enough to get a seat at the negotiating table. However, she is a smart, driven woman and they will have to win her and her son over with their product and their offer.
Therefore, Vacarro gets the boss (Ben Affleck) and his marketing team (Jason Bateman, Chris Tucker, Matthew Maher) together to make the ultimate basketball shoe and an offer which would stand out against the competition.
It’s all pretty gripping stuff, even though it is essentially a movie about a multi-national conglomerate handling a contract negotiation. A contract negotiation in which everyone in the audience knows basically how it all worked out….
However, that is underestimating the charms of Air, to reduce it to its most basic level. It is a charming character study, a look at dreamers trying their one big shot at the brass ring.
Plus it is a wonderful piece of nostalgia, knowing and accurately capturing the feel of the world in 1984. It has a terrific soundtrack, too. (One slight complaint, the opening credits song – “Money For Nothing” by Dire Straits – came out a year after the action of the story took place. The rest of the music seems to be right on the money, though.)
Air is smart, funny, and way better than you would expect it to be. Just like Mike.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2023 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: April 5, 2023.