Remember the Titans Movie Review

Here's the pitch: Take an emotional drama about the racial conflict concerning the integration of a black high school and a white one in the South. Then wrap the entire plot around a hard-nosed high school football coach (Washington) with an unorthodox style but an uncanny ability to get the most out of his players. As an added little twist in this case, the old white head coach (Patton) stays on as an assistant so we can play with a fair amount of racial conflict and power struggle as these two egos collide, and ultimately generate a little more emotion as they become friends.

The last bit aside, we've all seen this movie a couple of times before, so we know what to expect from the feel-good sentiment. To be sure, a lot of bigoted white folks are going to do a lot of mean things until they slowly start to understand that we are all the same on the inside. And a bunch of jaded and underachieving high school athletes will slowly learn what it is their coach is trying to teach them about becoming men and champions. Throw in the fat kid from the wrong side of the tracks who finds his inspiration and a little pride along the way, and we've got the most heartwarming film ever made.

The only trouble with this concoction is that in trying to concurrently satisfy these two very demanding genres -- sports story and racial drama -- director Boaz Yakin and producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Chad Oman felt compelled to include the same stock scenes that we've seen before in both of these genres. The townspeople rise up against the outsider coach, the players who struggled under him at first come to respect him, the white man finally realizes that he and his black counterpart aren't that different, and of course, there's the ever-popular brick-through-the-window of the new black family in the neighborhood. Of course, the filmmakers ride these powerful scenes for all of the emotion they've got. But ultimately, this continuous stringing along of genre conventions weighs the film down, preventing the filmmakers from bringing any really new elements to the table.

Remember the Titans is based on a true story. And thankfully so. If it weren't for that fact, audiences probably wouldn't buy all of Yakin and Bruckheimer's string pulling. As it turns out, even though Bruckheimer, the action producer with the touch of gold, would seem unqualified for this picture, these two manage to mine the emotional for it's worth. As it turns out, genre cliches turn out to be the most powerful elements of the film, alongside the force of nature that is Denzel Washington. In particular, the emotional scenes of the team coming together on the football field prove the most effective. (If you don't know much about football, you can identify these scenes by the fact that they usually follow an impassioned speech by one or another player or coach, and are always backed by an emotional rock or R&B hit of the '60s or '70s.)

Ironically, the occasions when the filmmakers aren't following genre conventions (in the film's rare opportunities for originality) are the times when the film tends to flounder the worst. Most notably, the subplot about a sexually ambiguous surfer-boy from California is simply awkward and dilutes from tension at the heart of the story. Also, the decision to bookend the film with a funeral sequence from ten years later is stupid and pointless. It was unnecessary and overbearing in films like Titanic and Saving Private Ryan, but here it is simply a waste of the audience's time and attention. You actually find yourself wondering who is going to die and how that will tie in to the plot, only to find out in the end that it doesn't tie in at all.

All in all, the movie is very consistent if not overpowering. You've seen it all before, but the competent repackaging will manage to tug at your heart strings anyway. We're all suckers like that, I guess. And Jerry Bruckheimer knows it better than anyone.

Everyone's a winner.


Comments

Remember the Titans Rating

" Good "

Rating: PG, 2000

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