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Jimmy Dolan (Kevin Bacon) is a college basketball assistant coach who wants to find a new star for his team since he believes this will get him a promotion to head coach at the school. He sees a home video of a prospect named Saleh and travels to Africa to recruit him. Upon arriving in this continent, Dolan finds himself confronted not only with the challenges of basketball but also with the challenges of adjusting to and learning how to live in the midst of a brand-new culture. Though Dolan is initially opposed by Saleh's father who is also the leader of the village, he later agrees to let his son play. Dolan and Saleh both teach each other life lessons before they take the court for one final game with everything on the line. One of the most dramatic scenes in the film involves the instruction of Saleh by Dolan regarding the "Jimmy Dolan Shake and Bake."
Kevin Bacon as Jimmy Dolan, a college basketball coach
Charles Gitonga Maina as Saleh, a basketball player from an African village
Yolanda Vazquez as Sister Susan
Winston Ntshona as Urudu
Mabutho 'Kid' Sithole as Nyaga
Sean McCann as Ray Fox
Dennis Patrick as Father O'Hara
Nigel Miguel as Halawi
For scenes taking place in the United States, the film was actually shot in Toronto & Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Copps Coliseum stood in for the University's arena. Scenes in Africa were shot in Kenya and Hoedspruit, South Africa.
The Air Up There received negative reviews from critics. The Austin Chronicle mentions its "timeworn formula" and "cultural imperialism". The New York Times review points to a plot similar to several other Disney movies. The film holds a 21% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 28 reviews.