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Remember the Titans

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4

All-Reviews.com 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 Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

"In Virginia, high school football is a way of life," Coach Yoast's daughter Cheryl (Hayden Panettiere) explains to us in the introduction. "It's bigger than Christmas Day." REMEMBER THE TITANS tells a heart-warming, true story about a championship high school football team in 1971. Set against a background of racial strife when the Virginia high schools were starting to integrate, the movie rises several notches above what we've come to expect in sports movies.

Boaz Yakin (A PRICE ABOVE RUBIES), working from a funny and moving script by first-time writer Gregory Allen Howard, directs the movie with the same precision and passion demanded of the football players in it. The biggest reason for its success, however, is another marvelous performance by Denzel Washington (HURRICANE) as Coach Boone, the new head coach of the just integrated T.C. Williams High Titans. Always intense, Coach Boone is at once humorous and insufferable. Most of all, Coach Boone is a winner who is willing to drive his team way past normal limits of pain and endurance.

As the ex-head coach, the dedicated but more compassionate Coach Yoast (Will Patton) agrees to stay on as Coach Boone's defensive coach as a way to keep harmony among the team and keep his white players from quitting in protest over his resignation.

Having played high school football in Texas under a similarly fanatical coach to Coach Boone, albeit a white one, I can identify with inhuman practices in order to win state championships. After you win them, it's easy to forget the insanity required in practice to become the best. In the movie, the coach puts the team through everything from 3 a.m. runs in the woods to forcing dehydrated players to continue to practice without benefit of water. The movie, to its credit, doesn't try to smooth off the rough edges of Boone's prickly personality or make his hard-work fanaticism seem easy to follow.

Much is made in the script of the difficulty of integrating the team so that they play as one. The animosity between the races starts out so high that it looks like they will never gel as a team. One key white player even brags that he will "miss" some blocks when the blacks are running. Rather than beating us to death over the head with the race issue in Oliver Stone fashion, the movie uses a blend of extremely funny comedy and sharply written drama.

The blacks in town look to Coach Boone as a savior, something he tries to downplay. "I'm not Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King or the Easter Bunny," he tells an adoring crowd of blacks. "I'm just a football coach." Modesty, however, isn't an attribute that the coach demonstrates often, pushing himself as hard as he does his players. He is tough on all races, arguing that to act otherwise is to do them a disservice. Again and again, you have to be in awe of Washington's incredible talent as an actor. I have no idea how great the real-life Coach Boone was, but surely his gift was nothing in comparison to Washington's, who brings so much charisma and drive to his every role.

Parts of the film, as when the team sings "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," are reminiscent of many other sports movies, especially THE REPLACEMENTS. Some, however, are surprises, especially the little gay humor thrown in with just the right amount of ambiguity.

Of several subplots, the best involves the two 9-year-old daughters of the two coaches. Coach Yoast's daughter, Cheryl, lives and breathes football. She is the team's number one fan and likes to offer strategy suggestions. In contrast, Coach Boone's daughter, Nicky (Krysten Leigh Jones), likes dolls. Cheryl says that Nicky "plays" with them, but Nicky corrects her, saying that she "accessorizes" them. Although the movie's epilogue talks about what great friends the two real-life coaches became, it's hard to see their girls ever really overcoming the differences in their interests.

The football action is filmed up close so that it's hard to follow the game at other than a gut level. The editing is fast paced, and the football hits are punishingly hard so that the movie does pump up your adrenaline. Even if the filming of the action isn't quite what it could be, it is more than adequate to tell the story.

By the end, we've had an entertaining, good time and have been moved by a fascinating story. With a musical score of surprisingly sweeping grandeur, REMEMBER THE TITANS is a wonderful film that is much better than we have any right to expect. Whatever you do, don't leave before the epilogue that tells what happened in real life to the coaches and many of the key players.

REMEMBER THE TITANS runs 1:53. It is rated PG for thematic elements and some language and would be a great film for the entire family.

My son Jeffrey, age 11, and his twin friends, Steven and John, both 12, loved the movie, giving it ****, **** and *** 1/2 respectively. They all mentioned how much they liked the story, especially the parts at the football preseason boot camp. They found the film quite funny.

Copyright 2000 Steve Rhodes

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