Air Isn’t a Slam Dunk, Maybe Just a Layup

The Stream: Ben Affleck probably should have just been the director.

The Big Screen: Viola Davis and Chris Messina add some spice in small roles.

The Final Bill: A solid, but basic, drama with an inspirational message.

– Trip Fontaine
Director: Ben Affleck
Writers: Alex Convery
Stars: Matt Damon, Jason Bateman, Ben Affleck, Chris Messina, Viola Davis, Julius Tennon, Chris Tucker
Genre: Drama
Rating: R for language
Runtime: 1 hour 48 minutes
Production Companies: Amazon Studios, Artists Equity, Mandalay Pictures, Skydance Media
Platform: In theaters on April 5, 2023
Notable Trailers: The Flash, Fast X, Joy Ride, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant

Hey, Streamers! Remember that Michael Jordan biopic we have all been waiting for? Well, keep waiting because Air ain’t it. Jordan is just an ancillary character here, and we only see him from behind and in profile shots. Air‘s main character is Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) of Nike’s failing basketball division in 1984, who is attempting to sign a big-name NBA rookie for an endorsement deal. Vaccaro believes that Nike should put all of its money and effort into securing a deal with Michael Jordan. Vaccaro bends the rules, advocates for Jordan until all of the cohorts at Nike are on board while he woos the Jordan through his mother, Deloris (Viola Davis). Swooshing hijinks ensue.

Air is a good drama, but it’s pretty basic. Ben Affleck directs the movie pretty well and he’s assembled a good cast. While you may not know the specifics of the story (ex. how dismal the Nike basketball division was in 1984), but you definitely know how the story ends. Therefore, how the story is told is very important in order to make the movie engaging. In that respect, there are some humorous moments and there are some tender and inspirational moments; and the cast handles it all pretty well. It has a good and unexpected moral in the end. The way the film builds to that is effective. I didn’t realize how important this endorsement deal was to not only Michael Jordan but to many athletes that came after him. Beyond that, Jason Bateman has a nice poignant moment that’s about taking risks. Viola Davis delivers another strong performance that highlights the theme of self-worth. Chris Messina brings most of the over-the-top humor. Even though Matt Damon is kind of bland, he understands the tenacity of Sonny Vaccaro.

Here’s a hot take: my biggest gripe is with Ben Affleck as Phil Knight, Nike co-founder, in cos-play. I don’t know what he is doing and every time he shows up it takes me out of the film altogether. It is also very distracting to have Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in scenes together. They always feel like Damon and Affleck rather than their characters, Vaccaro and Knight. I think Affleck should have cast someone else as Knight and only directed the movie.

S2S: Official Rating Scale

Ultimately, Air is a solid drama about knowing your own worth. It is relatively entertaining even though we already know the outcome. There is an imporant moral to this story. There are good performances, especially from Viola Davis and Chris Messina; but Ben Affleck probably should have just directed this film. Nevertheless, it’s good enough to bounce over to the theater for a matinee viewing with a bowl of popcorn.