Coach Carter (2005)

(Netflix Streaming, November 2015) As much as I don’t respond eagerly to sports movies, and as much as I don’t feel immediately compelled by tales of black teenagers working themselves out of the ghetto, I have to admit that the savvy blend of sport underdog drama and troubled-youth theatrics in Coach Carter seems made for success.  As a bonus, Samuel L. Jackson gets one of his most Samuel L. Jackson-esque role here as the titular coach, using harsh methods to teach disaffected teenagers some work ethics and life skills.  Mechanically put together and almost entirely unburdened by surprises, Coach Carter does offer a few highlights even if it takes almost forever in the film for Carter to become an actual protagonist with obstacles to overcome.  Much of the sub-plots surrounding the core story are familiar and make the film longer than it should be, although Ashanti turns in a fine performance and Channing Tatum can be seen in an early role.  Still, it’s Jackson who elevates the material, providing a credible figurehead through which the tough-love message of the film can echo.  While kids may like the film because of the unlikely victories, parents will love the sugar-coated message about the value of work and discipline.  As with most other sports movies, this is an aspiration story of moral values played on a field –designed for maximum appeal. 

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