Remember the Titans

The last time Denzel Washington played an actual character, there was criticism on the truthfulness of the story. The general consensus is that The Hurricane fared poorly at the Academy Awards because of an alleged skewing of the truth towards making Washington's character more heroic and taking liberties with other facts of the entire case. Chances are, there will be little similar criticism leveled towards Remember the Titans, another film based on actual events. This time, it is the early seventies, and a football squad in Alexandria, Virginia is, for the first time, integrated. The school board gives Coach Herman Boone (Washington, The Hurricane, The Bone Collector), an African-American, the head coaching job, over local Coach Bill Yoast (Will Patton, Gone in 60 Seconds, Trixie), much to the consternation of many locals.

Remember the Titans is the typical sports movie. Everything hinges upon the big game at the end, and the outcome is almost never in doubt. All of this done here against the backdrop of racism. The elements of racism are present, but not as vitriolic as in other movies. This is a PG-rated movie, so the dreaded "n" word is absent. This takes away some of the gritty reality of the movie, but again, this is a Disney movie. In typical Disney fashion, there is a kid, this time, a football loving little girl (Hayden Panettiere, Dinosaur, Message in a Bottle), which ends up as the most annoying element of the movie. This is also a Jerry Bruckheimer movie, and he knows how to please his audience. Some call it pandering, but he does it so well. Remember the Titans is a fun movie. Boone and Yoast use football training camp to allow their team to bond. What begins as hatred ends up at camaraderie and trust, with plenty of time for singalongs. By the time school starts, the Titans are an almost cohesive group. The rest of the school did not have the opportunity they did, so there is a lot of mistrust, but the team is integrated and friendly with each other.

Thankfully, writer Gregory Allen Howard (A Star is Born, Power and Grace) develops complex characters, with no easily definable heroes or enemies (well, one or two enemies). Prejudices touch upon every character in one way or another. Boone is an extremely demanding coach. He expects much from his students, and is strict disciplinarian. Some of his drive seems to come from his sense of pride. Yoast on the other hand, is more pragmatic. He is trying to resolve his own prejudices internally, more than what some others are doing. The team members all work through their own issues, with lots of help from constant pep talks by Boone. However, the pre-dawn run ending at the site of the Battle of Gettysburg was a little much.

The overriding message is that members of opposing races can come together using sports as a common element. Director Boaz Yakin (A Price Above Rubies, Fresh) has a relatively easy time. The script and acting are great, so his job is a lot easier. He doesn't bombard the viewer with unnecessary sports shots. Washington always does well in these roles. Patton does well also, always having Yoast restrain himself from exploding. Pretty much all of the Titans are good. Each one seems to have some element that makes them unique. One is a hippie, one quotes scripture, one lip-syncs, one is fat, and so on. The two standouts are Ryan Hurst (Rules of Engagement, Saving Private Ryan) and Wood Harris (Celebrity, Above the Rim), the white captain and the black defensive linebacker, probably because they have the most screen time. Yakin shows them, especially Hurst, as they begin the arduous process of changing their attitudes. Remember the Titans works by focusing more on the individual. There are larger social elements present, but they do not weigh down the lighter aspects of the movie, and there are a lot. Yakin and Howard add in a surprising amount of humor and emotion. It may not be the most profound movie, but it is sure fun to watch.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 51 minutes, Rated PG for thematic elements and some language.

Back to Movies