Last year I saw Gracie, a movie about a teenage girl who wants to play high-school soccer in the late 1970s, when the game was considered a males-only sport in America, and faces a lot of opposition from her school. I finished my review with the line, "If it were football, would we be agreeing more with Gracie's opponents?" The Longshots gives us the opportunity to consider that question. Can we sympathize with, and cheer on, a girl who wants to succeed as a quarterback in an all-boys' football league? The answer is yes, because The Longshots focuses on characters and personal relationships and as a result, feels richer and more satisfying than the standard sports-genre film.

The story is simple and except for the girl-quarterback angle, old-fashioned in a Capra-esque way. Jasmine (Keke Palmer) is a middle-school loner and misfit in a small town hit by economic troubles. Her mom Claire (Tasha Smith) has to work longer hours at the diner -- dad ditched town and family several years ago -- and Jasmine is still too young to be left alone after school. So Claire pleads, nags and finally bribes her husband's brother Curtis (Ice Cube), an unemployed ex-football player, to keep an eye on his niece Jasmine. Of course they can't stand each other at first, but eventually Curtis discovers that Jasmine has an excellent throwing arm and teaches her how to be a quarterback. Meanwhile, the town's playground football team is languishing, and one thing they're missing is a decent quarterback, sooo ...