The Air Up There
The tale of one man's coming of age and maturation, The Air Up There, is wonderfully endearing in its combination of humor and sentiment.
This PG-film begins at St. Joe's College where assistant basketball coach Jimmy Doland (Kevin Bacon) loses the school's best recruit for the upcoming year. Forced to find a replacement, he sees the perfect man (Charles Gitonga Maina) in a film being shown during a banquet. Traveling across the globe to meet this man from Winabi, Kenya, Jimmy not only finds an outstanding player, but learns that life holds more importance than winning a basketball game.
Determined to have Saleh sign a contract, Jimmy must first convince Saleh's father, the leader of their people. Working for weeks and enduring numerous hardships, Jimmy has a hilarious encounter with a wild boar and despite the village elders' doubts, he learns to herd cattle. After continually being terrorized by a local copper miner attempting to gain Winabi's land, Saleh's father is given new hope of both his son's ability and Jimmy's intense interest in it.
Kevin Bacon proves to be astounding in his portrayal of Jimmy with a winning combination of pizzazz, determination and self-awareness. Sent on a quest to find himself, Jimmy is told that on his journey he must leave a great part of himself, so that he may gain an even greater part. Jimmy's quest to become one of the Winabi is also one for manhood and self-identity.
During the crucial game, quick cuts to Saleh's brother give foreshadowing to future developments in the plot, and the editing made an hour game pass in only a few moments. Cut after cut of swishing nets were shown mixed with flashes of the skyrocketing score, and deciding moments in the game, such as the last 45 seconds in which Saleh incorporated the "Three-Stage Process" taught to him by Jimmy.
Costumes, which added an intricate part of this film's overall effect, included the amazingly ornate head dresses and body adornments worn by the villagers. Sister Susan would occasionally be seen dressed in her nun's habit, while many of the villagers wore traditional garb. Long strings of brightly colored beads and shiny pieces of metal complemented the paint which decorated their dark faces and bodies.
A great movie for the entire family, The Air Up There is delightfully humorous and amusing. A wholesome movie, this film provides a welcome relief from the violence and vulgar language of many others. This movie is great for everyone who enjoys both comedy and basketball. .
Review by V. C., Palmer, MA
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.