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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir Thomas Carter
scr Mark Schwahn, John Gatins
with Samuel L Jackson, Rob Brown, Rick Gonzalez, Robert Ri'chard, Antwon Tanner, Nana Gbewonyo, Channing Tatum, Ashanti, Denise Dowse, Debbi Morgan, Sidney Faison, Ray Baker
release US 14.Jan.05,
05/US MTV Films 2h16
For the boys: Gonzalez, Ri'chard, Tanner, Jackson and Brown
Since it's based on a true story, we can forgive the filmmakers their heartwarming excesses. This is a thoroughly entertaining film, but you do wish they'd tell the tale without funnelling it through Hollywood's inspirational movie assembly line.
Ken Carter (Jackson) didn't need the job when he was offered the chance to coach the losing basketball team at Richmond High School, on the rough innercity side of San Francisco Bay (although filmed amid L.A.'s palm trees). Basketball is all these students live for, but Carter knows there are some things more important than sport. Even after winning over most of the players--and creating a winning team--he finds strong resistance in the school and community. So he takes drastic action.
The painfully obvious script wastes no time setting up each expected conflict. The characters are engaging, but only slightly more than stereotypes. Jackson barely breaks a sweat to play Carter's tough-love coach; he's almost too nice as the guy willing to break the system to help the kids. As his players, Brown (Finding Forrester) is the standout as a conflicted and intelligent young man with a pregnant girlfriend (Ashanti) and difficult decisions to make. Ri'chard is very good as Carter's determined son; Gonzalez handles the fiery tough-guy Latino role well; and Tanner, Gbewonyo and Tatum give nicely edgy performances as the smart-mouthed charmer, challenged student and tough white homie, respectively.
But the cliched script often leaves them floundering with its tame locker room antics, threats of drug/gang violence and constant touching moments. Director Carter (no relation) films the games energetically, but features so many shots of the scoreboard (and so many last-second slo-mo clips) that they become a new cliche all their own. At least he gets the first "captain, my captain!" scene out of the way early on. And avoids rah-rah halftime pep talks.
It also helps that the film's based on real events, which gives it the authenticity its superficial script lacks. There are extremely important issues lurking in here that seriously need examining, and while the film sidesteps the story's true grit, it at least pushes all the emotional buttons right on cue.
Jade, net: "it was a brillant film but needed to develop the ideas more fully, and better backgrounds of the players would have made it an even better movie. the only thing wot i cant knock is the music - great!" (27.Feb.05)
tamra, concord, ca: "movie was okay, but the actors did not protray richmond at all. we dont say 'son' like channing tatum says 100 times. ashanti is so horrible, no one would belive she was from the bay area." (2.Sep.06)
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