Directed By: Sunu Gonera
Written By: Kevin Michael Smith, Michael Gozzard, J Mills Goodloe & Norman Vance Jr.
Story By: Kevin Michael Smith & Michael Gozzard
Cinematography By: Matthew F. Leonetti
Editor: Billy Fox
Cast: Terrence Howard, Bernie Mac, Tom Arnold, Kimberly Elise, Evan Ross, Nate Parker, Scott Eastwood, Gary Sturgis, Brandon Fobbs, Alphonso McAuley
The determined Jim Ellis starts a swim team for troubled teens at the Philadelphia Department of Recreation.
There must be a cliche that says if you are making an African American period piece that the Afro wigs that are used must be ridiculously, horribly fake that almost distracted me from this film as a whole. While not as terrible as the wigs in the movie THE WOOD. These were pretty bad. This film suffers from more than that, while I did enjoy this film. Call me biased but intend to like heartwarming films especially African American ones because it is rare that we see them.
I also have a weakness for sports story of triumph. With this film like most sports films is predictable and when it’s not predictable it’s cliche ridden. They Coach goes up against his word, but for a good reason. The saintly character had a dark and sordid past. The racist whites who will come around at the end to give respect to the people they were calling animals only minutes earlier.
This film even has Tom Arnold doing a dramatic performance though it doesn’t offer too much dramatic depth. As he is more a villain as one of the racist white coaches.
Bernie mac does a good job, though anytime it calls for him to be emotional. You feel like cracking up. It’s not because he is bad. He actually is good but that is the reaction it seems to garner.
Terrence Howard while a good actor is not usually one of my favorites. He has this quality sometimes that seems to suggest he feels he is too good to be in whatever role he is playing, plus his eyes while pretty always look like they are on the verge of watering or crying.
The film also takes on a romantic subplot, out of nowhere that not only has no steam behind it but also no chemistry.
The film also adds in the fact that education is key to the future. The looming criminal or gangster of the neighborhoods influence. The sole female member joining the team because it also gives voice to women’s rights to this story of success and struggle. Because we all are equal after all.
We don’t know all of the facts behind this true story. So I can’t say which aspects are true or embellished.
The film tries to be earnest and tell it’s story, that while actions happen the film is teaching the characters and viewers life lessons. not sensationalizing it. So for that I must give it the proper respect and it didn’t waste my time or sicken me. It was the acting, directing, editing, staging, cinematography, writing and production values. The script could use some work to be maybe more subtle rather than cookie cutter.
Still give the film it’s props, but I can’t really say there was anything really that special about the film. More a heroic tale that allows for a chance to show black excellence.