Pride proudly wears its heart on its sleeve as a crowd-pleasing, rah-rah sports movieand is all the more irresistible because of it. Thanks to excellent and engaging performances by Terrence Howard and Bernie Mac, Pride is a winner.
Pride is "inspired" by true events. Unlike movies "based" on true events, those that are "inspired" can take the bare bones of a true story and build exponentially upon them. It focuses on swim coach Jim Ellis (Terrence Howard)not, by the way, to be confused with the great boxer Jimmie Elliswho inspired in a group of inner-city kids "pride, determination and resilience" when he was assigned to monitor a rundown Philadelphia recreation center in the early 1970s. As one would expect in a film of this sort, Coach Ellis instills in his kids a will to struggle and fight--and to paddle their way to glory. Along the way, they contend with the hazards of urban life (drugs, crime) and the ugliness of racism. The kids learn teamwork and respect, and the coach learns a thing or two about himself, too.
Terrence Howard, who's in such a beautiful groove as an actor that he can almost do no wrong, brings his trademark intensity and passion to the role of swim coach Jim Ellis. He's tough but tender, forceful yet contemplative--and everything a big-screen coach should be. He also has great chemistry with the kids, and particularly with Bernie Mac, whose custodian of the rec center becomes a great sounding board for Coach Ellis and the swimmers. If Howard is a great screen coach--and he is--than Mac is a great assistant coach. It would be nice to see them paired up again. Kimberly Elise is very pretty and very good in another stock role, that of a city councilwoman eventually won over by Howard, leading to a potential (and predictable) romance. Even Tom Arnold, cast as an antagonistic and racist rival swim coach, manages a good turn.
This is the first feature from director Sunu Gonera, and he brings an enthusiastic approach to absolutely formula material. The swimming scenes are exciting, and, even better, the scenes that focus on the characters are just as stimulating. Besides, any director who can get a good performance out of Tom Arnold surely has something. Films of this sort can be done well and they can be done badly--and we've all seen countless examples of the latter. Pride is clearly a feel-good movie from the first frame to the last. And guess what? It all works. Every second of it. Pride's corniness quotient, which should be off the scale, is instead supplanted (refreshingly so) by a good, old-fashioned sense of storytelling and heart. It gets its message across without being heavy, and that is tantamount to a victory in itself.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 stars.