Coach Carter is yet another addition to the motivational sports movie with a message genre, that unfortunately is far too long and self-important to be a good film.
What makes a compelling real-life story does not necessarily make a good film. Sometimes, the story needs adaptation to make it screen-worthy, sometimes it can’t be done. For whatever reason, it seems the makers of Coach Carter were more concerned with uncritically putting the events up on screen than with making them into a moving film. Friday Night Lights is another example from this year, where staying true to the real-life events in a high school football team were more important than making an interesting or thoughtful movie.
The story is actually a worthwhile one – a high school basketball coach, who in his efforts to make young men with aspirations and discipline out of a bunch of teenagers with attitude and no hopes, ended up forfeiting their games and locking them out of the gym. He provoked an outrage, with community and educational leaders, as well as parents, all accusing him of grandstanding, when all he wanted was for his charges to become something more than good three-point shots. This received national attention in the US in 1999, for obvious reasons – it challenged the orthodoxy. Athletes don’t have to be anything but athletes, do they? Why should they have to learn? Or have respect for others, or themselves?
Unfortunately, this film version does not do the real-life story justice. Weighing in at 135 minutes, Coach Carter is far too long, and contains far too much padding. One character goes twice around on the same character arc for goodness sake! Now, maybe that occurred in real life, I don’t know, but why include it in the film? It comes across as gratuitous, and even silly, and I was left wondering if I was missing the difference.
This seems to want to be a one-man character piece, but it is stopped from being one both by its form and its content. Jackson is passable as the eponymous Coach, but many of his athletes are poorly played. Maybe it was because they realised they were acting out clichés? Not one of these kids is original, not one unique. We have seen this all before, and better. Ashanti appears as a pregnant girlfriend, but is wasted.
There are moments that moved me, and I was interested in the outcome – thankfully, the eventual results are placed over the final scenes for us to read – but I couldn’t get interested in much of this. What may have been a good film was stopped by a failure to edit, and inadequate selection of material.Rating: