Ellis himself faced discrimination in his collegiate days on the swim squad. But, like most PG-13 reach-your-potential-in-urban-neighborhood movies (ahem, Freedom Writers), the filmmakers are too gentle with the material. The worst put upon Ellis at a meet is, “Boo!” followed by “Yeah, boo!” We’re not expecting to see a Klan rally in the gymnasium, but a little realism to 1950s racism would have been adequate. The neighborhood, according to one character, is a “nesting ground for drugs, thugs, and the lowest common denominator,” though the only evidence of this is a few snarly hoods jamming to the radio in a playground. The dreck-ridden script (scrambled together by a staggering four writers) gives us no reason to truly respect it as it handles the text as an after-school special, topped off with literally every cliché in the gamebook.
Pride isn’t so much an inspiration as it is a reminder that all white people are evil and that “some things never change.” The script (which I’ll remind you again was penned by FOUR writers!) takes the highdive straight into the shallow end. And when the text takes a breather from being too obvious, the formulaic sounds of “Express Yourself”, “Love Train”, and “Oh Happy Day” come in handy to walk us through the characters’ feelings.
Watch any of the following modern inspirational/based on a true story sports movies: Cinderella Man, Coach Carter, Cool Runnings, Friday Night Lights Hoosiers, A League of Their Own, Remember the Titans, The Rookie, Rudy—hell, watch Radio! Whatever you do, pretend you’ve been discriminated from seeing this movie.
A Deleted Scene (4:21) has Bernie Mac bonding with the female teammate in a motel room (not as sleazy as I’ve made it sound). The Extended Swim Meet (25:42) scenes don’t add a whole lot to the movie, either, despite their running time.
The 3 Music Montages (4:50) are an interesting addition that only fans will find watchable.