Film review: Remember the Titans

Published: Thursday, June 27 2002 4:23 p.m. MDT

REMEMBER THE TITANS — *** — Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Ryan Hurst, Wood Harris, Donald Faison, Hayden Panetierre, Kip Pardue, Ethan Suplee, Craig Kirkwood, Nicole Ari Parker; rated PG (sports violence, racial epithets, mild profanity); Carmike 12 and Ritz 15 Theaters; Century Theatres 16; Cinemark Jordan Landing Theaters; Gateway 8 Cinemas; Loews Cineplex Midvalley and Trolley Corners Cinemas; Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons.

Wait a minute! Can "Remember the Titans" really be a Jerry Bruckheimer production?

Sure, this fact-based sports drama has all the earmarks of Bruckheimer's films — it's corny, clichd and downright cheesy at times, and it presents its message in one of the most predictable, heavy-handed manners we've seen in a movie in years.

Yet, unlike so many of Bruckheimer's recent productions (especially this year's dreadful duo of "Coyote Ugly" and "Gone in Sixty Seconds"), the film also has real heart and a worthwhile purpose for existing.

In case you hadn't already gathered from the movie's trailer, "Remember the Titans" serves as a reminder of how much goodness there is inside people, just waiting for the right person to bring it out. And frankly, if you don't find yourself caught up in the movie's rah-rah finale or are at least moved by its pleas for racial acceptance, there may be something really wrong with you.

Of course, this surprisingly entertaining genre picture also benefits from having a rock-solid foundation in the form of leading-man Denzel Washington. At this point in his career, we probably shouldn't be surprised that he gives yet another stellar performance, one that exceeds the seemingly limited material.

He stars as high school football coach Herman Boone, who finds himself in a somewhat unenviable position in 1971-era Alexandria, Va. Boone has just been handed the reins for the T.C. Williams Titans, a perennial powerhouse in the high-school football ranks.

It's a school and community divided, since his hiring has forced out longtime Coach Bill Yoast (Will Patton). Meanwhile, legislature-mandated busing has led to a newly integrated student body, which has rankled even more people — if that's possible.

However, Boone is still determined to make the best of this worsening situation. First, he asks Yoast to stay on and serve as his defensive coordinator. Then, he tries to bring together his contentious, racially divided players with a grueling training camp.

To nearly everyone's surprise, the team emerges relatively unscathed and returns to town as exactly that — a team. But Boone still faces some lingering resentment from Yoast, who seems ready to pounce at the first mistake he makes. If that isn't bad enough, there are those in the community determined to make his coaching stint a short one, including school board members who have all but said that Boone will be out if he loses.

It's possible that many audiences will be able to predict what happens next, down to even the most minute plot details and specific lines of dialogue — even if they're not already familiar with the real-life stories of Boone and the Titans.

But director Boaz Yakin ("Fresh," "A Price Above Rubies") uses that predictability as a strength. In fact, it gives Yakin and screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard an excuse to explore different facets of the story line and give the supporting characters their own back-stories.

Still, it might not have worked if Washington and Patton didn't have an easy on-screen chemistry, which makes their initially strained relationship that much more believable.

As for the supporting-cast members, especially those playing members of the team, they could have easily fallen into neat stereotypes, but instead each emerges as a likable presence, especially Donald Faison and the conflicted team captain, Ryan Hurst.

"Remember the Titans" is rated PG for sports violence (some slightly brutal) and some brawling, as well as use of racial epithets and some scattered, mild profanities. Running time: 113 minutes.


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