Sports, as one fictional reporter put it, is all about firsts. As an 11-year-old, the real Jasmine Plummer made history as the first female quarterback in the 56th Annual Pop Warner Youth Super Bowl. While the account of her story in The Longshots takes plenty of liberties with the actual details of her life, the script sticks to the tried and true football film genre like a determined defensive back.
In the movie, Jasmine (Keke Palmer) lives in Minden, Illinois, a depressed, rusting Midwestern town that's fallen victim to high unemployment, homelessness and a general despondency since the closure of the local processing plant. Even the stadium is virtually abandoned as the Minden Middle School Browns hit the dusty gridiron for some uninspired practice drills.
Among the throng of jobless citizens is Curtis Plummer (Ice Cube), a former factory worker, past star of the high school football team and perpetual beer guzzler. When his single sister-in-law Clair (Tasha Smith) has her hours extended at the diner, she asks Curtis to spend some after school time with his niece, Jasmine.
But being cooped up in the house with the prolific reader -- even for a few hours -- is more than Curtis can handle. Coaxing Jasmine out the back door, he soon has the pre-teen lobbing the pigskin around the yard. Then after scouting out the Brown's dismal fall lineup, Curtis convinces his niece to toss a few passes for Coach Fisher (Matt Craven) and his assistant Cyrus (Dash Mihok). Impressed by her ability to throw, the coaches add her to the roster despite the other players' initial disapproval.
It doesn't take much imagination to see where this film is headed. Yet this season isn't without some pleasant surprises for the players, their fans and even the audience as this blue-collar town finds something to cheer about. Despite Reverend Pratt's (Garrett Morris) Sabbath service plea for unity in the community, it's Jasmine and her teammates who generate a come-together spirit among the townsfolk. While the attitude adjustment doesn't eliminate the challenges they're facing, it restores a degree of hope among the downtrodden.
Dealing with themes of abandonment, bullying and self-esteem issues, the script contains some infrequent profanities and brief rude humor. Yet for this young girl who has been deserted by her father and begrudgingly babysat by her uncle, life on the football team becomes a way to build confidence and gain friends while learning to believe in her own self-worth as a person...valuable lessons for anyone who feels like a longshot.