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Remember the Titans

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Remember the Titans

Starring: Denzel Washington, Nicole Parker
Director: Boaz Yakin
Rated: PG
RunTime: 113 Minutes
Release Date: September 2000
Genres: Drama, Sports

*Also starring: James Fox, Christopher Reeve, Peter Vaughan, Hugh Grant, Michael Lonsdale, Tim Pigott-Smith, Patrick Godfrey

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

I don't recall hearing the "n" word spoken in hostility by a white guy in the past twenty years. In fact according to some sociologists, there are white teens and college people in various sections of the country who seem to want to be black. They imitate clothing fashions and colloquial speech of young African-Americans and, believe-it-or-not, statistics prove that whites snap up hip-hop CD's in greater numbers than blacks. This is not to say that racism is dead in the U.S. but if you introduce a kid of any race to "Remember the Titans," he simply would not believe what he sees. Opening in 1971, Boaz Yakin's movie from a script by Gregory Allen Howard based on true incidents (and produced, strangely enough, by a now socially conscious Jerry Bruckheimer), hones in on the outright animosity shown by some whites in an Alexandria, Virginia school district when their school and most particularly their coaching staff is ordered integrated by the school board. By the time school opens in September, the kids of both races seemed to be heading to their classes peaceably enough but the enraged parents, carrying picket signs showing their opposition to forced busing, were the troublemakers--not the youngsters.

Remember the Titans" deals with a situation that occurred just months prior to the commencement of the school year when Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) is brought up from South Carolina, appointed as head coach to the football team of T.C. William High School, thus knocking successful white coach Bill Yoast (Will Patton) into a subordinate position. Along with Boone, a company of black students were being integrated into this southern institution, so that at the beginning of summer vacation, desegregation was being put to the test. Not only was the white team threatened by the black football players against whom they would have to compete to keep their varsity uniforms: they were furious that Yoast, a candidate for the hall of fame, was downgraded by a newcomer. Boone, as determined as a Marine boot-camp instructor to get his boys into shape, even to court perfection, leads them on a bus trip to a camp in Gettysburg, PA where he would customarily wake them up at three in the morning and penalize anyone who fumbled the ball by making him run a mile.

Of course "Remember the Titans" is not about football, because if it were, it could not possibly compete with just about any pro game that creates football widows around the country every Sunday during the season. Like every other sports picture, "Titans" uses sport as a metaphor for life, or at least for mankind-in-miniature, in this case as a testing ground for racial harmony. While racial melees break out from time to time among the boys from the team known as the Titans, Boone is determined to meld the disparate groups, even forcing them to room together and giving them an assignment to ask each other about their families and their lives.

"Remember the Titans" is one of those films that could easily be dismissed as a generic feel-good crowd-pleaser, the sort that inevitably ends with your team winning in the final seconds of play and all members of the team--and by extension the school--getting together in peace and harmony. Yet despite the swelling music that virtually forces tears to our eyes and lumps to our throats, and notwithstanding at least one pretentious speech made by the head coach to compete with no less than the Gettysburg Address itself, the movie is so well-acted, with Will Patton's performance in particular so quietly engaging, that we have to give the ensemble credit for turning in an enjoyable and heartwarming film.

Sure, Yakin throws in the obligatory precocious kid to win over the parents in the audience--in this case the amazing nine-year-old daughter of Coach Yoast, Sheryl (Hayden Panettiere) who knows more about football than any of the men in the school. And sure, we get the recycled pop tunes and the particular individuals who acquire self-esteem such as the overweight Lewis Lastik (Ethan Suplee)--who from the start doesn't give a fig what his teammates' race might be but heads right over and sits down to lunch with the black teens. But darned if this picture--shot in Georgia without a single spectacular football play photographed with the intensity of an ordinary televised Sunday game--doesn't thoroughly entertain even while devoid of a single four-letter word.

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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