After waiting several weeks to see the Ben Affleck-directed movie “AIR”, I finally joined the many who have already seen it and was not disappointed. Although I knew the film would be great, based on the sole fact that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were behind it, I found it better than I expected.
With the opening sequences reflecting on everything 1984, I knew I was in for a very memorable and entertaining film. Add all the retroness–from the cars to the phones, even the old DOS computers and especially the music!–and I was settled in.
“AIR” is more than just a movie about a sneaker. It’s a story behind a failing company and the people working there, all desperate to stay afloat and how, with a little bit of genius, fate and luck, they were able to achieve success.
Enter Sonny Vaccaro (played by Matt Damon), Nike’s sports marketing executive. When he isn’t busy gambling on the Lakers in Vegas, he’s attending high school basketball games and pushing Nike sneakers to the teams. The 1984 NBA draft is about to happen and all the hype is about who is probably going to go third in the draft–Michael Jordan–a young stud from UNC who namely achieved what he did in college because Dean Smith put the reins on him. Nike wants to get their sneakers on to Jordan’s feet. But how? Converse and Addidas are already breathing down his back.
But Sonny is as great at his game as Jordan is at his. Along with Nike teammates Howard White (Chris Tucker) and Marketing Director Robby Strasser (Jason Bateman), Sonny plays out how Nike is going to achieve the ultimate–sign Michael Jordan to a shoe contract. Of course Sonny comes up with the ideas and fails to first discuss them with CEO Phil Knight (Ben Affleck), which leads to conflict. But luckily Phil has many zen moments, puts his bare feet up on his desk, goes for a jog in his flashy track suit, and chills, knowing that Sonny is doing what Sonny does best.
Sonny does listen to Jordan’s agent David Falk (Chris Messina) and doesn’t call Michael Jordan’s parents. Instead, Sonny actually travels to North Carolina and visits them in person! Classic move and great way to stick it to Falk! After meeting with James Jordan and Deloris Jordan (Julius Tennon and Viola Davis) and telling Deloris exactly how her meetings with Converse and Addidas are going to go down (and that if they do go the way he says they will, she will meet with Nike), Sonny returns to Nike to face the wrath of Phil and of course Falk.
Upon learning that Jordan is coming to Nike, Sonny talks to Nike’s graphic designer, Peter Moore (Matthew Maher) and tells him what he wants and who he wants it for. The shoe is designed and the big day arrives. The Jordans have already been wined and dined by Converse and Addidas. What will Nike have to offer? They start off with a presentation featuring Jordan playing basketball while Dan Hartman’s “I Can Dream About You” plays in the background. Sonny reflects back on a conversation he had with former basketball player and coach George Raveling (Marlon Wayans) and he’s inspired. He stops the presentation and lays out the exact reasons why Jordan needs Nike and why Nike needs Jordan in an Oscar-worthy speech.
The tension is high as Nike awaits the Jordans’ final decision. When the call comes from Mrs. Jordan, it is a positive one, but not without a hitch. As any smart mother who knows their own child’s potential, she tells Sonny if they want Michael, he gets a percentage of every Air Jordan sold. Sonny is freaking out and I’m thinking “once again, you haven’t told Phil”.
As with every happy Hollywood ending, it all works out in the end. As of course, we all know. I was pleased to learn that Nike bought Converse in 2003. Sadly, the real Peter Moore, the actual designer of the Air Jordan, passed away before the film was released.
If you take anything away from this movie it’s that “a shoe is just a shoe until you step into it”. Another thing I’d love to see is Ben Affleck wearing that flashy track suit to Dunks!
Is “AIR” for everyone? Hell no. But if you appreciate basketball, relish in anything 80’s and respect the work of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, then this movie is for you.