Remember The Titans
The topic of race relations during the time of forced integration in the Southern school system is perhaps the last film one would expect to emerge from the likes of Jerry Bruckheimer, who has previously produced such heinous films as Gone in 60 Seconds and Coyote Ugly.
Enjoyable despite its overly simplistic depiction of racial tensions, Remember The Titans is a feel-good movie to end all feel-good movies that somehow is unencumbered by its use of cliches from both sports dramas and films on racial struggle. It is both the caliber of the acting and the naive sincerity of the screenplay by Gregory Allen Howard that keep this film from sinking into its own shallow waters.
Based on a true story, the film follows coach Herman Boone, the newly appointed head coach of the recently integrated T.C. Williams High School football team, The Titans. His mission is to forge a winning team out of a group of boys divided by racial prejudice and intolerance. Having been given the position over coach, Bill Yoast (Will Patton), who had several years' seniority and the support of the town, Coach Boone finds himself in the middle of a very hostile situation.
The charismatic but hardheaded Boone decides to take the players on a two-week boot camp far away from the biases of the town. Here he drills them on both the rigors of football and need for team unity, by forcing them to live and work together.
His unorthodox tactics begin to make headway until finally the whole team is singing emotional Motown songs together. This newfound harmony is quickly challenged, however, when the players return to school only to find the town violently torn apart by integration. The Titans must then struggle to win the championship and lead their community towards racial unification.
Denzel Washington gives a solid performance as Herman Boone, providing an adequate amount of shading to his rather carbon copy character. His effortless integrity elevates the part (and consequently the entire production) to a cut above its afterschool special nature. Will Patton, together with Ryan Hurst (who effectively plays Bertier, the aggressively racist team captain turned colorblind team martyr), manages to convey the gradual coming around which is meant to symbolize the town's need for open-mindedness and inclusiveness.
Although the film has all the sappy slickness of any film in the Bruckheimer repertoire, director Boaz Yakin somehow manages to keep his formidable cast focused and on track. The characters are surprisingly believable in spite of their heavy-handedly symbolic roles. It is only the family-oriented spin of the story that keeps it from being really interesting with last minute sports heroics, overly emphatic male bonding and countless recycled pop tunes that the team members sing together no less. In spite of all that, Remember the Titans proves to be a surprisingly engaging drama about real people who overcame the chains of ignorance.