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Remember the Titans
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by Andrew Howe

"Mr Washington Goes South"
4 stars

On paper, Remember the Titans sounds like a discerning filmgoer’s worst nightmare. It’s a message film which overlays its triumph-over-the-odds tale with feel-good sequences, a surfeit of sentiment and occasional dramatic moments, while allocating American Football nearly as much screen time as Any Given Sunday. It’s a kissing cousin to the likes of Mr Holland’s Opus, and that would seem to make it a candidate for a caning.

Except, that is, for the fact that I happen to like Mr Holland’s Opus, for the universal applicability of its themes (life never works out like you want it to, we are never a failure if we can make a difference to the lives of those around us, and many others) and the range of emotions it evokes ensure I never walk away unmoved, and allow me to forgive its many flaws. So it is that, as far as Remember the Titans is concerned, I come not to bury but to praise, for the day has not yet come when I can bring myself to disparage a film simply because it wears its heart on its sleeve.

The film chronicles the exploits of a multiracial high-school football team in the early 70’s. It was a time when the barriers imposed by segregation were beginning to crumble, but decades of prejudice ensured that the old regime wasn’t going down without a fight. Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) is thrust into this electrified atmosphere through his appointment as the head coach of the T.C. Williams High football team (the “Titans” of the title), which results in the demotion of his much-loved predecessor, Bill Yoast (Will Patton). The white players rally around Yoast, the team’s African-American recruits look towards Boone for guidance, and since there’s no love lost between the camps the stage is set for an almighty clash of cultures.

If you guessed that Boone convinces the opposing sides to respect each other, then you’ve obviously read the scriptwriter’s mind. The barriers are broken via a rather lengthy stint (in terms of allocated screen-time) at a football training camp, but upon his return Boone is notified that if the team loses a single game during the upcoming season he’s out and Yoast is back in. This opens the way for the second half of the film to become the kind of sports flick that will have many viewers pumping their fists in the air in spite of themselves, while finding time to further develop the relationships between the major players.

To suggest that the film is a mess of clichés, stereotypes and obvious attempts to manipulate the viewers’ emotions is perilously close to the truth. There’s Gerry and Julius, the leaders of the rival factions who become firm friends in spite of the lack of understanding exhibited by girlfriends, parents and assorted occupants of their previous circles of influence; the fat kid and the hippie who are shoehorned in to make the point that prejudice can be fostered by things other than the colour of your skin; the last-minute victories on the sporting field; the requisite dose of unexpected tragedy – the list is extensive, and would provide sufficient ammunition to ridicule the film if I so desired. I have no intention of doing so, however, for there are times when I don’t mind being manipulated, especially when the strings are being pulled by a film which is as well-crafted as this one.

There’s not much point allocating more than a couple of lines to praising Washington’s performance, since we can almost take it for granted that he will service his role with distinction. Boone’s charisma allows you to forgive him his occasional stubbornness and arrogance, and similar roles in Glory, The Bone Collector and The Hurricane have proven Washington’s affinity for this brand of understated heroism. The training-camp reconciliation does seem to come a little too easily, but Washington’s intense, magnetic performance, combined with his expressive features and vocal delivery, never gives you reason to doubt Boone’s ability to act as a catalyst for change.

Will Patton is not a name which will be familiar to the average moviegoer – some may remember him fondly for his fine performance in Armageddon, others may be trying to forget his thankless role in The Postman. His efforts in the former proved that he is well-suited to playing an average guy, the kind of person who wants nothing more than to walk a simple, honest path, but learns the hard way that the Fates have other plans. This is a fair description of Yoast’s lot in life – he’s raising a young girl as a single father, making it through the best he knows how in a world which is changing around him. He’s good at his job (he’s in line for a major award from the sporting community), and obviously harbours a great deal of respect for his charges, but Boone’s arrival pulls the rug from beneath his feet. He’s left to choose between his inner desires and the right thing to do, and because he’s a basically decent man he throws his support behind Boone, but there are times when he can’t help but mourn his loss. It adds another layer of complexity to a supposedly straightforward narrative, and Patton’s quiet dignity makes him a commendable choice for the role.

The supporting players are also worthy of note, with special mention going to Ryan Hurst and Wood Harris, who play Gerry and Julius respectively. Hurst turns in an immensely likeable performance (there are moments when he almost steals the film from Washington), and Harris is never far behind. When combined with several other team members who are allocated enough screen-time to raise themselves above the level of faceless drones you’ve got the strong core the film requires, with the only sour note being Hayden Panettiere‘s portrayal of Yoast’s daughter (her performance is fine, but the kid is an annoying, opinionated brat).

I wasn’t there, of course, so I can’t comment on the degree to which the film accurately recreates the lives and times of the era, but I suspect the fact that it steers away from the darkest crimes borne of prejudice may see it accused of trivialising the issues. However, its heart is in the right place, and it was never meant to be a gritty drama in the vein of Mississippi Burning. In any event, we don’t need to be confronted by murder and deprivation to be outraged by the views held by certain members of the community, and there are times when an insistent whisper can ram the message home just as effectively as a primal scream (I might add that we are led to believe that this is a true story, which effectively grants it immunity from such accusations. I would imagine that the scriptwriter has applied a certain amount of artistic license, however, since real life rarely provides a cast of likeable characters and a conveniently-structured, rousing narrative.)

The film’s greatest strength is that it is packed with memorable scenes, and its pacing ensures that you’re never far from something of interest. I am by no means a fan of American Football, but I’m always ready for another dose of hard-hitting sporting triumph, and that’s something the film has in spades. The events on the sporting field are artfully choreographed and scripted exactly as you might expect, eschewing the endless stoppages and rule-book minutiae in favour of bone-jarring tackles, screaming coaches and hard-fought touchdowns that’ll have you joining your voice to the crowd’s.

The matches supply the excitement, but it’s the off-field events that provide the required weight. The film is awash with emotional, poignant moments – Boone taking his class on a field trip to a Civil War cemetery, a host of scenes dealing with reconciliation, and a soul-destroying turn of events towards the end of the piece – and if some of them border on the corny and contrived it’s impossible to complain too loudly, for they touch you in places that no amount of cynicism can harden. It is here that the film truly makes its mark, and the juxtaposition of stirring sporting endeavours with high-impact emotion makes for a compelling, passionate journey.

Remember the Titans operates on many levels, addressing its themes with the aid of a capable cast, high production values and a top-notch script. It canvasses important issues, but it permits itself to be immensely entertaining into the bargain, and the result is a film which accomplishes exactly what the title suggests it set out to achieve.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=2009&reviewer=193
originally posted: 02/05/01 02:48:51
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Deep Focus Film Festival For more in the 2007 Deep Focus Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/16/17 morris campbell boring & preachy 1 stars
6/19/11 pwhite98270 classic movie with a wonderful cast, history of race relations 5 stars
3/22/11 kagomefan4lyfe Denzel Washington is a genius. Kudos 2 him! lol 5 stars
11/05/09 Robert I will say that it intrsting 5 stars
9/11/09 ilovecandy! it was exciting, fun and most of all it was great because of the great actors!! i loved it 5 stars
6/17/09 sexyasshole this movie makes me wet in my panties 5 stars
10/21/08 Shaun Wallner Thought this was a good film. 5 stars
6/30/08 Huston Gets Cheesier every year I watch it, but I watch it every year 3 stars
3/15/08 ladavies My husband watches this over and over, and I join him. Great movie. 4 stars
2/12/08 michael the ttans rock wooo. 5 stars
11/10/07 Amanda OMG.. Remember the Titans is the best movie. I have seen it at least 7 times. 5 stars
10/17/07 cait how could people say that this movie is bad..its about racism,we need to know! 5 stars
8/26/07 GWB Rocks Totally sucked! can you say formulated boys and girls? Makes Point Break look good. 1 stars
6/07/07 courtney sooooooooo good, puts a smile on my dile. 5 stars
5/08/07 Ant Don't bother remembering these manipulative Titans. 1 stars
5/06/07 ty This is one of my favorite movies. Iva seen it like 10 times 5 stars
4/24/07 yonathan Gonzalez its pretty cool but ive seen it at school like 7 times. Its really a good movie!!! 4 stars
11/09/06 Klaire excellent must see!!! 4 stars
11/06/06 Shei really good movie, has a wonderful meaning see it! 5 stars
10/03/06 melissa perez awesome movie 5 stars
8/30/06 connie daw awesome movie none better 5 stars
6/21/06 Joanie Very gentle 4 stars
6/14/06 Sandy + Stephanie (twins) Our favorite sports movie! 5 stars
5/20/06 William Goss Well acted, but too manipulative for my tastes 3 stars
4/02/06 JRE the best sports movie ever made 5 stars
11/15/05 jenene I really enjoyed this move it is one of my favorite movies. 5 stars
10/26/05 beans stewart good movie 5 stars
10/25/05 Carolyn Rathburn Wonderful movie, wonderfully done 5 stars
9/07/05 zac it sucked 1 stars
8/22/05 Quigley one of the best sports movies made. definitely worth seeing 5 stars
8/03/05 Carolyn Rathburn wonderful movie, loved it 5 stars
8/02/05 JASPER this film is a great movie and should be enjoyed by everyone 5 stars
4/30/05 ally one of the best movies i have ever watched 5 stars
2/05/05 clinger26 my favorite movie 5 stars
1/19/05 Yoshi It's a pretty good movie. 5 stars
12/06/04 Sophie Green best film i have ever seen i can't believe people don't like it 5 stars
12/04/04 Shelby This movie was great it touched me. way to go Titans. :) 5 stars
10/14/04 Eric Great movie one of my favs 5 stars
5/31/04 Nobody Disney just HAD to put in a gay kid 1 stars
11/08/03 Amanda LOVEd it.. could watch it 100 times 5 stars
9/03/03 Alex Go Denzel, Go Denzel, Go Denzel 5 stars
1/07/03 Bob Dong Absolute Classic, one of my faves, makes you fell all warm inside, buy or DIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
12/19/02 Mike Pretty Good, but OZ is right about the piano music in every scene. 4 stars
9/11/02 palaboy101 Another great football movie. 4 stars
8/01/02 I Can't Swim Important message given the Hallmark treatment; movie has much value nonetheless 4 stars
6/30/02 Iris Dementia Praecox Worthy idea backfires because Washington's character is a (self-described) "onery old cuss" 2 stars
10/09/01 Butterbean A good movie, but it's sappy as hell!! They said some of the corniest shit in this movie. 3 stars
9/10/01 Jeff Stryker Ok Film, but some really ridiculous parts. Tries to cover too many things 3 stars
8/17/01 hilary awesome 5 stars
6/27/01 Jennifer Really cool movie. My fav. 5 stars
6/04/01 Jake A realistic look at why football can be a beautiful game. Good study in teamwork. 5 stars
5/25/01 TigerDream awesome movie, all around good feel, and just makes you smile :) 5 stars
5/08/01 Joe Skeates Great movie, just an absolutely great movie. 5 stars
5/01/01 The Bomb 69 simplistic view of race relations in the 70's but good nonetheless 4 stars
4/13/01 Gary Great! 5 stars
4/10/01 Caitlin MacInyytyre I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS MOVIE! 5 stars
2/15/01 jessica really well done. lots of hot guys. 5 stars
2/15/01 viking a feel good movie with a positive and relevant message 4 stars
1/30/01 Monday Morning Denzel definitely takes this film up a few notches. 4 stars
1/28/01 Tom Baddick Every high school student in America should see this film-- especially all sports teams! 5 stars
1/24/01 Zenon This movie ROCKED 5 stars
1/23/01 Megan Fallon This was a real feel good movie and whoever the mighty 'oz' is shouldn't bag it out! 5 stars
1/22/01 Tasha Parks The movie was excelent, I recomend it to anyone and every one. 5 stars
1/10/01 Matt69 O.k. Denzel steals the movie. 3 stars
12/26/00 Lauren It was awesome! 5 stars
12/11/00 Kook Would have been better if they'd have taken out some of the dramatic score.. eeeuch. 3 stars
12/09/00 Sheddy Celestine Words can hardly describe what I thought of this movie. 5 stars
11/27/00 Scott Rosier Excellent movie for all ages 5 stars
11/20/00 Tdis72 Very good movie! Denzel's performance is powerful. Very funny moments and nice ending too! 4 stars
10/31/00 G. Washington very good 4 stars
10/23/00 mwild so bad i nearly fell asleep, deserves 0 stars 1 stars
10/07/00 Michael Manipulative yet refreshing + wonderful. Only the most hateful cynic could not like it 5 stars
10/04/00 Jacques Strap two words: out-standing! 5 stars
10/03/00 Ground Zero Denzel Washington is the star 5 stars
10/02/00 Politicsman Right Along SIde Field Of Dreams, The Natural, Hoosiers, A League Of Their Own 4 stars
10/02/00 chuckmfh Great movie, touching interplay between characters 5 stars
10/02/00 Paulo What a lousy film...full of cliches, a real champion on the lack of originality category.. 1 stars
10/01/00 thomas k Was incredible, and touching, made me want to play football. 5 stars
10/01/00 Image Without a doubt...one of the best i've seen! 5 stars
9/26/00 The Rock Predictable like only a Disney and Football movie could be....but completely entertaining 5 stars
9/25/00 Joe Gillis Rocks! 5 stars
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  29-Sep-2000 (PG)
  DVD: 14-Mar-2006


  25-Jan-2001 (M)

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