Coach Carter
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Coach Carter

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In most of our lives, there has been a teacher that inspired us to achieve far more than we ever thought we were capable of doing. In most cases they were tough, pushing us when we wanted to give up. They might have seemed like the worse person in our lives at the time but looking back they were the best thing that could have happened to us. Because of this Hollywood as turned to inspirational teachers and coaches for stories made into films. With movies like ‘Stand by Me’ and ‘Stand and Deliver’ treating the audiences to a chance to see one person affect the lives of the young minds under his charge. One of the latest in this long line of films is ‘Coach Carter.’ It is about a man coaching high school basketball who forces his team to place academics above the sport they love. He wants them to be well rounded, intelligent adults instead of dreaming of making it big in sports. Like most movies of this genre, the story, based on real life. In this case, the experiences of Kenneth Carter flawlessly played by Samuel L. Jackson. This film combines two genres that are usually described as inspirational, teaching and sports. In the sports movies, you usually get an underdog that works hard to achieve the win that everyone thought was impossible. The school elements always place an importance on the need to set boundaries and goals for students. The film was produced for a modest budget of $30 million by MTV. While they had once been known as the first music video cable network and now, seemed to have moved on to so-called reality shows, they do come up with films on occasion. This was one of their better achievements and became their highest grossing film release to date. Like many film biographies, some liberties were taken with the facts. As always this was done to enhance the dramatic effects. Hopefully, the film will inspire the young people and adults watching to look up the real Coach Carter and discover the facts of his story. The film does have some technical flaws, but the most important thing is the message comes across loud and clear. This is a film that should be watched as a family. It directly addresses the current popular attitude that fame and fortune is something worthwhile to pursue. It stresses the core values of education, dedication and hard work.

Coming up with the script here is John Gatins and Mark Schwahn. Gatins has some experiences that lead to a film like this. His two previous screenplays included a sports flick ‘Hard Ball’ and a teen-oriented comedy-drama ‘Summer Catch.’ Schwahn penned the teen comedy ‘The Perfect Score’ and a teen slanted remake of ‘Cyrano de Bergerac,’ Whatever it Takes.’ In this case, the experience translates nicely to understanding the c, ore audience of teens, suitable for an MTV production. Gatins and Schawhn get the point across with a combination of sports and the underlying moral lesson. The script does ramble a bit. It takes a little too long to get the point across and could have been shortened. It is also heavy handed with the message of books over basketball. The concept is pounded into the audience frequently and too forcefully. Perhaps it was felt that this was necessary to get through to the tee, ns watching, but that is not giving them enough credit to know what is being said here. There is little here that hasn’t been said before. You don’t see a film like this for the story as much as how it is treated. This is a by the numbers story with personal crisis and parental disagreement coming right on cue. You know how the tale will end with the kids realizing that Coach Carter’s way is the best for them and out of all the adults in their young lives he is the only one who cares enough to believe, in them.

Thomas Carter is also a man who knows his way around the more serious side of a teen-targeted movie. His credits are far ranging and encompass films like ‘Save the Last Dance’ and ‘Swing Kids’ to television work on some of the most successful series as ‘Hill Street Blues’ and ‘St. Elsewhere’. This principle drawback of this film is the need for tighter editing. Clocking in at over two hours and fifteen minutes Carter allows the plot to drift. What is needed was a sharper more intense approach. The concentration was on emulating the music video style engendered by the production company. Despite its length, the film is a dizzying collection of fast-paced cuts. The images pass through the screen as rapidly as possible. Perhaps the younger crowd get to make something out of this methodology, but older viewers are likely to be turned off to some extent. With a story as potentially powerful as this more steak and less sizzle would have worked better for a wider audience.

Like many high schools, Richmond High in California has a focus on their sports teams. Their basketball team, the Oilers, had a lot of problems. As the film opens, we see that the team members are prone to fighting the other team instead of outplaying them. The boys are tough in their own eyes, and most have rather large chips on their shoulders. The school board decides to bring in a new coach for them, Kenneth Carter. He had once attended the school and set some records on the basketball court that was still unbroken. This was to be a relatively minor, part-time position with a salary of only $1,500 for the whole season. When he initially meets the team, he finds them undisciplined, self-absorbed and disrespects to any adults in a position of authority. His first course of action is to make the players sign contracts with him. This specified a set of firm rules that everyone on the team must follow. They had to maintain a 2.3-grade point average, above what is required by the league. Players would be expected to attend class sitting in the front row and dress in jackets and ties on game days. This change in the way things were done did not go over well at all with the players. One of their stars, Timo Cruz (Rick Gonzalez) walks out of practice after a heated argument with Carter. He is followed by two of the leading scorers on the team. In support for Carter, his son Damien (Robert Ri'chard) goes against his father’s wishes quitting the private school he attended to transfer to Richmond and join the team. Some of the players have more than their share of personal problems off the boards. Kenyon (Rob Brown) has a pregnant girlfriend Kyra (Ashanti) and plans to give up on college to marry her and raise the baby. This is admittedly a touch of stunt casting using popular singer Ashanti to draw in the MTV viewers. To her credit, she deports her self very well here. Things come to a head when the team fails to live up to their academic requirements as per the contract. Although they met the league standards their fell short of Carter’s requirements; his reaction was to lock them out of practice and games for a week. This resulted in the loss by default of two games ruining their winning streak. The parents are up in arms, but Carter is certain that unless they boys learn the importance of education they will not make it in the world.

The new Blu-ray release of this film is excellent. The video brings new life to an old story in such a way that you will be mesmerized by the clarity and quality of it. The Dolby True HD audio gives you a sound stage that not only reflects reality but is exciting especially when you consider the pounding soundtrack. Some extras consider the production of the film as well as the real coach Carter. Of course, since this is an MTV production, there is a music video included. This is not the best of the genre but well worth watching as a family.

Posted 12/07/08                Posted   07/31/2018

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