I love football, I really do. It can be plodding and bull headed and then without warning suddenly explosive, with ballet like precision. Combine that with a sixer and theres nothing better. And yet, making a great football film has been a challenge. If you saw Varsity Blues or The Program you know what I mean. The problem is no film can portray the inherent excitement of a football game better than a real game can. You need a plot off the field.
Set in Alexandria, Virginia in 1971 Remember the Titans tells the true story of the integration of T.C. Williams High School. Denzel Washington is coach Herman Boone, an outsider hired by the school board to run the integrated team, much to the frustration of the popular white coach Bill Yoast, played well with a laid back Southerners stoicism by Will Patton.
Produced by Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer, the film has the smell of a cliché riddled Hollywood product. Despite this dubious heritage it was directed by Boaz Yakin, best known for his fantastic breakout film Fresh which he wrote and directed. He brings his successful storytelling style to the film, giving it the right amount of tension and reflection. In addition to the fine direction the writer Gregory Allen Howard did his homework, spending several months interviewing the real coach Boone and coach Yoast.
Still the success on the screen would be something like three yards and a cloud of dust if not for Denzel Washington. Make no mistake; he is among the very best actors in film today, maybe the best. Just like his performance in last years The Hurricane here again he takes mediocre material, hefts it onto his broad shoulders and carries the picture into the end zone. Denzel takes what could be a bad film and makes it a pleasure to watch, hes that good.
Sure the movie paints in broad strokes, the racial animosity is quelled when the kids learn to play together as a team and find out that theyre not so different after all. But the performances are heartfelt and honest and the football scenes are realistic and exciting. They got my adrenaline flowing.
One of the more surprising performances comes from the young Hayden Panettiere. She plays Coach Yoasts daughter Sheryl and has a lot of fun with the role. A nine year old whos wise beyond her years she knows far too much about whats wrong with the team. The scenes between her and Denzel are terrific as they break down game film, Sheryl admonishing him to make corrections.
To be fair the film has other good performances. Ryan Hurst is really good as the ill-fated Gary Bertier, captain of the defense and Wood Harris does a fine job with the role of Julius Campbell, Hursts counterpart. A nice family film with a positive message Remember the Titans has a lot of heart. Im Erik Petersen for Movie Magazine.
© 2000 - Erik Petersen - Air Date: 10/4/00
Remember the Titans
USA - 2000