Monday, April 16, 2007

"Coach Carter" a well-coached film

Coach Carter. 2005. Dir. Thomas Carter. Perf. Samuel L. Jackson, Rob Brown, Robert Ri'chard, Rick Gonzalez, Nana Gbewonyo, Antwon Tanner, Channing Tatum, Ashanti, and Texas Battle.

Richmond High School, in which one out of every three students graduate, and where it might almost be said that dreams go to die, is alma mater to independent businessman Ken Carter, a former athlete with a ninth-grade son. Early in the film, the retiring coach of the Richmond basketball team urges Mr. Carter to coach this sadly losing team, which has just been defeated by the team of the ritzy private school St. Francis, on which Carter's son plays. Within a week of Carter's decision to coach Richmond, his son "quits" St. Francis, promising his father that he will maintain a high standard of academic and personal conduct in exchange for the chance to play under his dad.

The Richmond team presents Carter with a challenge: his athletes are undisciplined, irreverent, and mature beyond their years. One is struggling with the allure of drug dealing on street cormers. Another has a girlfriend who is several months pregnant. All are praying for professional basketball contracts, and none expect to go to college--or even graduate. One of Carter's first steps is to institute a series of academic and professional rules for his athletes. At first, parents and students are infuriated, but Carter's rules persist. Later, however, when several students on the team fail to maintain the required GPA, Carter takes steps that have him facing families, communities, new reportes, and even the school board. The ending of this film is fantastic, and the message is strongly enhanced by the fact that it is based on a true story. It may be a tough view for young eyes, but the film itself is excellent and a great movies for teachers aand athletes alike.

Carter, played by Samuel L, Jackson, is memorable only because that actor finally has found a role in which he conducts himself with the dignity and bearing of a postpubescent individual. Instead, the real stars of the show are the ten or twelve student athletes, each of whom has a story to tell and a role to play. Together, the team of actors forms a close-knit team with a bond that must have strengthened as filming continued. The directing is superb, as is the dramatic blending of several unique personalities into a collective whole.

Among the many virtues of this film are its excellent themes. Produced for a society that often seems to think athletes have less need for intelligence than the average businessman, Coach Carter is a cry back to the concept of "student athletes," and should be an urge to any young student and sportsman to reach for higher academic and athletic goals. Persistence is lauded, and themes of forgiveness and restitutuion are common, as Carter's athletes constantly suffer and fail in timeliness, work ethic, and even grades. The concept if teamwork is woven throughout, reminding viewers of the biblical urging to "bear one another's burdens," which, in fact, many of the athletes do better than most Christians today. Themes of sportsmanship and stewardship of both the body and the mind are also heavily present throughout the film.

In summation, this film is a must-see for teachers, athletes, and students alike--although parents would do well to preview it and anticipate some very mature themes (drugs, abortion, and premarital sex among these). But kudos to the directors: as a whole, this film carries through with a standard of excellence rarely seen in films today.