Movie Review: Air (2023)

Available on Prime Video 5/12/23.

It’s the ultimate “inside baseball” about the world’s most iconic basketball shoe. Director Ben Affleck’s ‘80s-set chronicle about Nike’s courtship of rookie hoops star Michael Jordan, Air (B+) is a crowd-pleasing triumph. Matt Damon is effective as the wonkish mid-level exec fixated on attaching his swoosh to a champion of the court, with Affleck offering comic relief as the new-age company head. Jason Bateman and Chris Tucker also get plum roles as their business associates in a film that’s essentially a talky bake-off between Nike and adversaries at Adidas and Converse, not to mention a battle to outwit a sleazy sports agent middle man, played masterfully and mercilessly by Chris Messina. Delivering grace and gravitas to her role, Viola Davis makes her mark as MJ’s mom and unofficial sponsorship gatekeeper. The film succeeds with the rat-tat-tat of hilarious bro banter and the sparks of being scrappy. Setting his movie to a banger of a vintage MTV greatest hits soundtrack, filmmaker Affleck tells an unlikely true story with humor and pathos, giving Damon space to set just the right tone at the center of the quest.  These real-life underdogs fight red tape with metaphorical mixed tapes in glorious fashion. For a movie about famous sports shoes, it keeps things loose and limber and pivots in an instant.

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