Remember The Titans


Directed by: Boaz Yakin
Written by:Gregory Allen Howard
Starring: Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Wood Harris, Ryan Hurst, Donald Faison, Craig Kirkwood, Ethan Suplee, Kip Pardue
Released: January 25, 2001
Grade: B

It is 1971 and the climate is changing.  The "all white" T.C. Williams High School in Virginia has been integrated with the "all black" neighbouring school to promote interracial.  Before the school year begins, the football team is assembled and put through a rigorous pre-season program for first kick-off in early September.

T.C. Williams High already has a successful coach - the soon-to-be Hall of Fame inductee Bill Yoast (Patton).  To help smooth the transition, higher powers have hired a new African-American coach in Herman Boone (Washington).  Given the intense racial climate, the citizens of Alexandria are divided over Boone's appointment and Yoast has decided he can't work under him and looks elsewhere for employment.  However, Yoast is informed by the school board that Boone's appointment is merely a "token gesture" and as soon as the team starts losing, he will be sacked and Yoast reinstated.

It's always going to be a losing battle for Boone but he has fight and puts up a damn good one.  From the two week introductory camp, he slowly wins the support of the team, the community and most importantly, Coach Yoast.  Together they produced a team that would do more than just win football games, they would unite the people.

Sporting movies are becoming a regular event with many focusing on American football.  In the past two years we've seen Any Given Sunday, The Replacements and a favourite of mine, Varsity Blues.  Can I add that the film setting my personal and very high benchmark is 1993's Rudy.

The reason such movies are so popular is that people love seeing the underdog get up - anyone remember Rocky?  The problem with Remember The Titans is that every scene is formulaic.  Just when things start to look up, another obstacle is thrown in their path but of course everything is wrapped up with a nice neat bow in the end.

Don't let me mislead you, I did enjoy the film and I was rooting for the team every time it had a great win but that doesn't necessarily make it a good movie.  I cheer every time I'm at the AFL but that doesn't make every game a good game.  In the back of mind, I know I've seen these characters and storylines so many times before.

The opening credits show Jerry Bruckheimer is a producer.  Why is this important?  Well, Bruckheimer's other credits include Coyote Ugly, Gone In 60 Seconds, Armageddon, Con Air, The Rock, Crimson Tide, Bad Boys, Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop.  It's a list I'd be proud of but they're all just fun, predictable, popcorn movies made in the same style.  With Remember The Titans made in a similar vein, you can understand the tired sense of deja vu I felt.

Aside from the script and an overbearing score from Trevor Rabin, there are positives to speak of.  Denzel Washington is always passionate about his work and delivers another fine performance (following his Oscar nominated turn in The Hurricane).  Will Patton relishes his supporting role and often steals the spotlight from Washington because his character is more interesting.

I have to single out one great moment that left me startled.  Several years ago, Roger Ebert wrote an article in his Chicago Sun Times column commenting how a cinemagoer can foresee every screen kiss just before it actually happens.  It was a valid point and a question worth thinking about for yourself.  There was one kiss in Remember The Titans that amazingly caught both myself and the audience off guard (given their loud reaction).  It was the only surprise I found in the film but given recent Bruckheimer productions, it was one more than I expected and even Roger Ebert would be proud.