Remember the Titans (2000)
Directed by Boaz Yakin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Ryan Hurst, Wood Harris, Hayden Panettiere, Ethan Suplee, Kip Pardue, Ryan Gosling, Craig Kirkwood, Donald Faison, Nicole Ari Parker, Kate Bosworth, Neal Ghant.
2000 113 minutes
Rated: (for mild profanity and thematic elements).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, September 30, 2000.
While following the same basic formula as all movies of its genre, Boaz Yakin's "Remember the Titans" is a surprisingly well-made football dramedy that, thanks to the assured, non-stereotypical screenplay by Gregory Allen Howard, manages to genuinely entertain and excite, even when it is offering up a cliched moment or two. Simply put, it is the best sports film since 1993's "Rudy."
Based on a true story set during the first year of integration between the black and white students at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, circa 1971, "Remember the Titans" tells of the famed Titans football team, which was headed up that very same year by the team's first black coach, earnest family man Herman Boone (Denzel Washington). At first, previous head coach Bill Yoast (Will Patton) is upset to be downgraded to merely Boone's assistant, but just as Boone teaches his team how to get along and overcome their racial and prejudicial differences, Yoast begins to sympathize and deeply relate to Boone himself.
One of the pleasures in watching "Remember the Titans" is realizing how the movie is not so much about the Titans football team winning the state championship, as it is about the team players learning to respect each other and using the sport as a way of expressing their future goals and dreams in life. Too often sports films rely solely on the suspense of whether the hero's team will win "the big game," sacrificing character development for such a worn-out plotline, and thus, they fail because 9.9 times out of 10 it is a given which team will come out on top. "Remember the Titans" does things a bit different by exposing itself as not only a so-called "football movie," but also an intelligent, if somewhat commercialized, view of race relations in 1971's Northern Virginia.
The cast is top-flight, particularly the younger actors, who create distinct characters out of potentially one-dimensional supporting roles. Ryan Hurst (1998's "Saving Private Ryan") is an absolute standout as head white captain Gerry Bertier, while his nemesis-turned-close-friend Julius Campbell is, likewise, well-played by Wood Harris (2000's "Committed"). Of the other football player, other notables include newcomer Ryan Gosling's truly likable turn as Allan Bosley; Kip Pardue (2000's "Whatever It Takes") as the charming, peacemaking hippie Sunshine; and Ethan Suplee, effective as the overweight Lastik, who has no known future after graduation. As Gerry's caring, but prejudiced girlfriend, Kate Bosworth (1998's "The Horse Whisperer") makes a minor impression with her few touching scenes in the second half, and Hayden Panettiere (1999's "Message in a Bottle"), as Assistant Coach Yoast's determined and precocious 9-year-old daughter, Cheryl, who narrates the picture as an adult, is appropriately precocious, delicately balancing her childish innocence with a wise-beyond-her-years dedication to her father's profession.
As the two central figures, Denzel Washington (1999's "The Hurricane") can do no wrong, and his portrayal of the rough-edged Boone, who often hides his warmer, more caring side, is right on the mark. Meanwhile, Will Patton (2000's "Gone in Sixty Seconds"), too often underutilized in films, brings a heartfelt realism to his fully written role of Yoast.
Overlooking a decidedly unnecessary wraparound sequence set in 1981, ten years after the central action, "Remember the Titans" is a motion picture that, for the first time in several years, producer Jerry Bruckheimer (1998's "Armageddon," 2000's "Coyote Ugly") can be proud of. With very little objectionable material, it is the rarest of PG-rated films that hold the ability of entertaining both adults and children, who may even learn a thing or two in the process about the importance of character and morals within each given individual. "Remember the Titans" is a veritable winner.
©2000 by Dustin Putman