How many of you knew that Cheers star Rhea Pearlman headlined a basketball drama about inner city high-schoolers on a losing team? This ill-conceived project has its heart in the right place, but it’s a bone-dumb exercise that is notable for its soundtrack and downbeat climax. Location lensing in and around New York City, as well as the world-famous Madison Square Garden, add a level of (much-needed) authenticity to this mildly enjoyable sports fable.
Phyllis Saroka (Rhea Perlman), a diminutive middle age white-woman, takes the coaching job of an inner-city high-school basketball team. Her initial interest is in making a few extra bucks so she can afford to quit teaching/coaching and open up a restaurant. She is a novice to the game and her lack of knowledge and leadership causes a mutiny amongst her young players.
One member of the team, Shorty (Fredro Starr), becomes Phyllis’ friend and assistant in getting the others onboard with their new coach. Terrence Howard is great as the mentally questionable and emotionally unstable player nicknamed ‘Spaceman’.
Sunset Park got lost in the glut of NBA-themed projects during the nineties. It shares some sensibilities with similar basketball dramas like Blue Chips and Above the Rim, but Sunset is a little tamer and much smaller in story and more modest in its ambitions. I can’t recommend the picture, it has too many flaws and lapses in narrative momentum, but it’s a scrappy little film that may find a welcoming audience in fans of the urban-basketball sub-genre.
Director: Steve Gomer
Stars: Rhea Perlman, Fredro Starr, Terrence Howard