Rebound is both the title of Martin Lawrence's latest movie and a metaphor for what the actor hopes this family-friendly comedy will do for his flagging career. By moving from the R-rated realm of the Bad Boys films to PG territory, Lawrence is clearly attempting to follow in the footsteps of Eddie Murphy, who has become a big hit with the under-10 set thanks to such films as Doctor Dolittle and Daddy Day Care. Lawrence even hired Daddy Day Care director Steve Carr to oversee his own rebranding effort. But where Murphy usually tries to establish a rapport with his young co-stars (even if the movies themselves are mediocre at best), Lawrence has never been known for being a generous actor. He likes to be the center of attention, which is a problem when making this kind of comedy, as the adults are rarely ceded center-stage for the entire film. Instead, a big part of their job is to serve as straight men to a bunch of rambunctious but lovable kids. Actors like Murphy, Walter Matthau and even Arnold Schwarzenegger understand that and adjust their performances accordingly. But Lawrence still cruises through Rebound like he's the main attraction. With little emotional connection between Lawrence and his young charges, the movie faces an uphill battle in keeping the audience's interest. Eventually, it simply becomes a matter of waiting for the clock to run out.
The screenplay by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore hews closely to the ground rules laid down by The Bad News Bears lo these many years ago. Once again, a coach with a self-control problem finds himself in the unenviable position of managing a kiddie sports team that's made up entirely of misfits and screw-ups. In this case, the coach is Roy McCormick (Lawrence), a college basketball genius who is banned from coaching university-level ball after losing his temper one too many times. As luck would have it, his old middle school is desperately in need of a competent person to coach its team, which currently has the worst record in the state. So at his agent's insistence, Coach Roy takes the job in order to garner some good PR. Naturally, he doesn't get off to a great start with the kids; they don't like him, he doesn't like them, and the losing streak continues. Out of frustration he finally starts to instruct them in how to play the game and-surprise!-he discovers that coaching a bunch of middle-schoolers may not be such a bad thing after all. More importantly, the team starts to win games and goes from being a laughingstock to a contender for the state championship.
There have been a number of Bad News Bears rip-offs made over the years (in fact, the Bears remake comes out two weeks after Rebound) and while none of them has measured up to the original, the formula can still yield entertaining results. I happen to have a soft spot for the 1992 Bears-on-ice flick, The Mighty Ducks, in which Emilio Estevez coached a ragtag pee-wee hockey league to victory. That film at least tried to put its own stamp on a familiar story. Rebound, on the other hand, is such a rote recitation of the Bears playbook that the viewer is never surprised and rarely engaged in the proceedings. Ultimately, the film is an adequate video babysitter, but kids and parents alike would have a better time simply rewatching The Bad News Bears.