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Coach Carter Rev.

12.17.2004

Coach Carter news article pic If you've seen the trailer for the upcoming Sam Jackson starring COACH CARTER then you've pretty much seen the movie. The trailer is impressive in that it manages to give away almost the entire movie in a mere two minutes. Having said that, JoBlo reader MadsenOMC was cool enough to put down a pretty thorough review of the movie. The review is mostly negative and high on the spoilers so if you don't want your opinion tainted, I'd suggest you look away right about now. If not, read on and enjoy.



Though the trailer essentially gives away the entire movie, I will provide a spoiler warning for Coach Carter because it’s polite. So, in case you haven’t seen the trailer, you’ve been properly warned.

The actual life story of Ken Carter is probably an interesting one, considering what he accomplished. Unfortunately, even though we’re informed that the following movie has been “inspired by the life of Ken Carter” in the opening credits, it’s safe to say that plenty of details have been changed. Or, left out altogether.

What we have here is the PG-13, WB/MTV version of Carter’s life. Take a look at the credits and you’ll find out all you need to know. Directed by Thomas Carter (Save the Last Dance). Written by Mike Schwahn (The Perfect Score) and John Gatins (Summer Catch and Hardball). Produced by Brian Robbins and Mike Tollin, who in some capacity (writer/producer/director) have been responsible for The Perfect Score, Hardball, Summer Catch, Varsity Blues, One Tree Hill, Popular and many, many more. That is quite a pedigree.

Coming from that list of gentlemen, you get exactly what you would expect with Coach Carter: a heavy-handed, predictable, clichéd, preachy, sappy, overwrought and contrived mess. But, as long as the WB/MTV crowd eats it up, who cares how bad the movie is?

We first see the Richmond Oilers basketball team as St. Francis, the best team in the state we later learn, is destroying them. Richmond doesn’t pass, play defense or hustle. Each player shoots as soon as he gets a chance, and they bicker and fight with each other constantly.

Carter (Samuel L. Jackson) has come to see his son Damien, who’s a freshman at St. Francis, play. But, as we soon find out, he’s been offered the head coaching position at Richmond and is there to see what he would be in store for.

Of course, he decides to take the job. He runs practice like boot camp. Immediately he kicks a player off the team for having a bad attitude. Those who remain must do a seemingly endless amount of push-ups and sprints. They also must sign a contract agreeing to maintain a 2.3 GPA (as opposed to the normal 2.0; a 2.3 means their SAT score can be lower), show up for classes, wear a jacket and tie on game day and always sit in the front of class. As Carter says, they are students first, then athletes.

Predictably, Carter meets opposition everywhere. Richmond’s principal has low expectations from her students (only 50% graduate annually, and only 6% of those go on to college) and thinks his methods are extreme. Let them have fun, since high school basketball will be the highlight of their life. Carter informs her that that is exactly the problem.

He also demands that the teachers fill out weekly progress reports so that he can monitor the attendance and classroom performance of his players. This does not win him many supporters on the overworked and underpaid teaching staff. The players’ parents also prove to be a problem. Like the principal, they don’t agree with Carter’s strict policies and just want their sons to stay out of trouble. If they’re playing basketball, they’re not getting into trouble. Strangely, even though the team is winning and nearly all the players are doing well in school, the parents want Carter fired. Who do they think is responsible for the on and off court success?

Coach Carter follows the formula we’ve come to expect to a T. He comes in, works them hard and saves the day. They are winning games and attending class and getting good grades. Along the way, there are no surprises, but plenty unnecessary and silly melodrama.

There are two main subplots in the movie, both involving players. Kenyon (Rob Brown) has a pregnant girlfriend (Ashanti) and a chance to receive a full scholarship to play basketball. He’s starting to have second thoughts about being a father. Their relationship and the problems they have are straight out of a WB show.

The other subplot belongs to Cruz (Rick Gonzalez). His older cousin is introducing to the world of gangs, and Cruz has to decide if he wants to stay in school and play basketball or follow his cousin’s path.

Both subplots are a distraction and add nothing to the movie. They randomly come and go. There’s no rhyme or reason to either one and they’re completely perfunctory. We’ve seen it all 100 times before, and there’s nothing unique about it this time around. It’s also unfortunate to see the charismatic and talented Brown, so good in Finding Forrester, totally wasted in a thankless role here.

The useless subplots help Coach Carter become one of the most ridiculously overlong movies of recent memory. It’s 135 minutes long! It feels like we’re watching the director’s cut DVD version. So many little, pointless scenes that could have and should have been cut out are still in (and I believe this is a finished version). There is no way a movie like this should be longer than 105 minutes.

As far as the cast goes, no one sticks out or makes much of an impression. Not that they should get all the blame. There’s really nothing to work with. Gatins and Schwahn never met a one-dimensional character they didn’t like. Even Jackson isn’t very good. It never looks like his heart is in it. He’s just going through the motions, and often looks bored. When he gets intense and yells, it looks phony, like a warm up. Jackson is capable of much more. We’ve all seen it.

The basketball scenes are weak as well, especially after seeing the quality football footage in Friday Night Lights. Thomas Carter is no Peter Berg (make of that what you will). It never seems like we’re watching a real basketball game. There’s nothing to distinguish it from every other TV show and movie that featured a high school basketball game. And other than one blowout that gets maybe 30 seconds of screen time, every single game is decided in the last minute. That’s a little hard to believe.

There’s really nothing to recommend here. Coach Carter is full of sermonizing and preachy “messages” that come wrapped in a nice little red bow. Characters give long-winded, pseudo-inspirational speeches that sound nothing like how real people talk. It’s about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the face and successfully trivializes serious, important issues. Good intentions are meaningless when you subject viewers to WB-friendly crap like this.

4/10 (I'm feeling generous)

Source: JoBlo

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