Review by Boniface
Remember the Titans (2000), rated PG, was one of those films that everybody suggests whenever I ask about a family friendly movie, but I had always put off seeing it because I am not particularly interested in films about football. But, I was pleasantly surprised by the film when I finally got around to seeing it, and even though I know very little about football, I was able to follow the film easily and found myself fairly engaged.
Remember the Titans is directed by Boaz Yakin, who up until this film (and since) is known for nothing spectacular; it was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, which no doubt gave it a boost. The film is set in 1971 in Alexandria, Virginia, at T. C. Williams High School, which has just been desegregated, plunging the community into a tense period of racial hostility. African American head coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) is hired to lead the school's football team. In effort to desegregate, the athletics board orders Coach Boone to take the coaching position from current head coach Bill Yoast (Bill Yoast is played by Will Patton, whom I am still trying to forgive for playing General Bethlehem in Kevin Costner’s The Postman). Coach Boone faces the difficult task of trying to unify the state’s first desegregated high school football team.
Like many other high school football movies, this one is inspiring and draws the viewer in with a host of cliché characters: the arrogant team captain, the fat kid, the pretty boy, the religious kid, etc. The football team characters are not very memorable individually, but the way the film depicts them coming together, white and black, to win the pride of their town and go on to the state championships is touching. But again, this is somewhat cliché: doesn’t every high school sports film you have ever seen end with the team going on to win the state championship?
The protagonists, Coach Boone and Coach Yost, are not as strong as they could have been. Denzel Washington as Boone gives a typical Denzel Washington performance: sassy, lots of big-eyed staring, little facial expression, and most disappointing of all, very little character development. In a story about desegregation and the coming together of the races, there could have been a lot of room for character development. Unfortunately, Washington’s character doesn’t seem to change at all – he is sassy, confident and unflappable from his first scene and maintains this demeanor until the very end of the film.
Patton’s character, Coach Yost, actually is a more interesting character and goes through some real development as he goes from being skeptical of an integrated team to embracing it. Unfortunately, Coach Yost is mainly a background character who has little role to play in the film after the first twenty minutes. I know this is a true story, but it would have been a better film if Washington’s character was left out. Instead of being about a black coach supplanting a white coach to take over an integrated team, why not about a white coach who is forced to take on an integrated team and must learn acceptance throughout the course of the film? This is in fact what happens with the Coach Yost subplot, but it remains only a subplot.
This movie would have had nothing objectionable save for one scene where there is some implied homosexuality with one of the kids. In fact, it is more than implied: it shows him plant a kiss on an unsuspecting teammate. The recipient of the kiss reacts in horror, and the event is played off as a practical joke, but homosexual innuendos surrounding this certain character continue for the remainder of the film. But, at least there is no sexuality and no foul language. Why they chose to throw in this one objectionable element, which could have easily been left out, is beyond me. This homosexual inference makes the film unsuitable for young kids.
Aside from that, and from the cliché plot and the boringness of Washington’s character (whom I never really sympathized with), the film is pretty good. High school sports movies have a way of being entertaining even if you don’t like sports, and though I found a few things to nitpick about this film, it was overall enjoyable and I would recommend it for someone looking for something good to watch with a spouse on the weekend. I give it two tiaras.