If the worst thing written about a years-too-long addition to the “Shaft” canon is that it’s unexpectedly entertaining, it will be leaps and bounds better than much of what’s debuted in this summer movie season thus far.

Personally, I’m still trying to recover from “The Hustle.”

“Shaft,” however, is something I’ve looked forward to ever since seeing the trailer, only possessing one expectation — that it deliver a piece of mindless fun laced with the swag of Samuel L. Jackson, one of three Shafts in this case.

However, before the proceedings end, three generations of Shafts, all named John, inhabit the screen producing chemistry and plenty of action. There’s the aforementioned Jackson, joined by son J.J. (Jessie T. Usher) and the granddaddy of the them all, O.G. Richard Roundtree, from the classic 1971 blaxploitation film of the same name, which was based on a novel by Ernest Tidyman.

With a screenplay written by Kenya Barris (creator of “Black-ish” and writer of “Girls Trip") and Alex Barnow (“The Goldbergs"), director Tim Story (“The Fantastic Four") plays the story of a New York City private detective more for laughs than its predecessors, including the reboot in 2000 that also starred Jackson.

The story of the two Shafts getting to know one another after decades-long separation drives the tired story of hunting down the big, bad drug dealer, however.

J.J., an FBI data analyst, comes to his father out of desperation, seeking his help to learn who murdered his childhood friend. Coincidentally, or not for the purposes of story, it turns out J.J.’s case has ties to the drug lord that dear old dad has been after for 30 years.

For those thinking this sounds all too familiar and possibly not worth the effort, it would not be difficult to blame them. In that regard, there’s nothing new about “Shaft.”

Wisely, however, the creative minds behind the film tie into other factors. J.J. remains bitter because he believes his father abandoned him. The resentment comes through on more than one occasion.

The elder Shaft, however, contends with the possibility that his son’s mother, Maya (Regina King), may have raised his son to be soft.

From those different viewpoints come serious laughs courtesy of generational clashes that makes “Shaft” as much fun as it is. And be warned, much like anyone of his generation, the elder Shaft isn’t politically correct, nor does he coddle his son.

It’s interesting to see how the script balances the difference in generations and, being honest, it’s not difficult to construe some moments as being tone deaf in that they can be perceived as bigoted, misogynistic, sexist and just rude. It is important, however, to view those moments in the context of the story.

Count me as one of the few who enjoyed the first Jackson effort in this franchise. However, that film, directed by the late John Singleton, though tinged with moments of humor, didn’t rely so heavily upon it. It did prove the beneficiary of a first-rate supporting cast that included Jeffrey Wright and Christian Bale in two memorable roles.

That is not needed this time around as Jackson, Usher and the eventual addition of Roundtree provide all that’s needed on the screen. “Shaft” takes pleasure in its story about the clash between generations and the audience certainly benefits.

 

George M. Thomas dabbles in movies and television for the Beacon Journal. Reach him at gthomas@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @ByGeorgeThomas