Here, Sandler’s Stanley Sugerman is a well-traveled scout for the Philadelphia 76ers, who stumbles on a streetball hustler in Spain, Bo Cruz (NBA player Juancho Hernangómez), whose lockdown defensive skills prompt Stanley to describe the guy more than once as being “like Scottie Pippen and a wolf had a baby.”
Stanley can’t wait to get Bo back to the US and into a 76ers uniform, but of course, the newly installed head of the team (Ben Foster, deserving better) doesn’t see all that potential, prompting the scout to risk his future in order to champion his discovery — a gamble that doesn’t sit especially well with Stanley’s beyond-patient wife (Queen Latifah, also underemployed here).
Raw talent, naturally, isn’t enough, and Stanley has to teach Bo not to let other players get under his skin (primarily as an excuse for an array of amusingly crude taunts about his mother), while turning to various basketball stars past and present for assistance along the way. They include, but aren’t limited to, Julius Erving, Dirk Nowitzki, Doc Rivers, and TNT’s Kenny Smith, the last actually playing a character and, like Hernangómez, doing a perfectly fine job of it.
Still, a bit like guarding an NBA star, knowing where “Hustle” is heading and preventing it from getting there are two different things, and the movie gets by thanks to its combination of breezy charm and a solid inside game, including the authenticity of the abundant basketball sequences.
Or as Stanley might put it, it’s sort of like an old-fashioned Disney sports movie and an actual NBA game had a baby.
“Hustle” premieres June 8 on Netflix.