Air teams up Matt Damon and Ben Affleck again in the story of Nike’s efforts to recruit a young rookie basketball star named Michael Jordan. Affleck directs an all-star cast: Jason Bateman, Viola Davis, Marlon Wayans, Chris Tucker, and Chris Messina.

Air’s main character is Sonny Vaccaro (Damon), a “basketball guru” at Nike who proposes that the company dump its whole endorsement budget into Jordan and the eventual Air Jordan basketball shoe. The first two-thirds of the film sputter along as Sonny pleads his case to Nike’s CEO Phil Knight (Affleck), Jordan’s agent (Messina), and ultimately Jordan’s mother (Davis). Much of this runtime is a bit dull – like Sales Pitch: The Movie – and Affleck occasionally shoots the “people talking” scenes in extreme close-ups, shots that seem designed to add emotional resonance to otherwise bland conversations.

However, once Jordan inevitably meets with Nike’s executives and the actual sales pitch occurs, the script by Alex Convery wrings an emotionally poignant moment. Damon’s acting is pitch perfect, as he delivers a scintillating monologue, and Affleck intercuts real Jordan footage from the NBA star’s career – the destiny that the young Jordan in the film has yet to fulfill. The climactic scene is almost enough to save the whole film.

Air is at its best when Damon and Davis are on screen, and when the script tries to turn Sonny Vaccaro into a working-class hero, the argument is strained but touching. It’s almost enough to make Air broadly meaningful. But “almost” is the key word.

Air is not near to Jerry Maguire (1996), a film that is about how we make our lives meaningful against the backdrop of the sports world; Air is closer to King Richard (2021), a quirky character study where the ending is predetermined and predictable and the themes are broad and unremarkable. As a drama, Air is fine and certainly not bad, but ultimately not worth recommending.