red tulips | copyright Jill J. Jensen

 

 

Remember the Titans

Cast: Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Nicole Ari Parker, Kate Bosworth,
         Ryan Hurst, Donald Faison
Screenwriter: Gregory Allen Howard
Director: Boaz Yakin
Theatrical release: September 2000; DVD release: March 2001

 

A long, long time ago, in another life far away, I played football. That might not seem unusual in the first part of the 21st century, but as a teenage female in the early 1960s, it was definitely not typical. Although he taught me the basics of the game, my older brother only tolerated my presence on the field as a way to ensure a relatively equal number of players on each side of the scrimmage line. And I took my bruising punishment like the others in this hard-contact version of backyard/playground touch football.

I'm not a Sunday afternoon football fanatic, and my lifetime goal never included playing middle linebacker or defensive end, let alone quarterback or wide receiver. But "ground school" certainly taught me a lot about the rules of the game and the way it's played. Enough, in fact, that I helped pay my way through college by shooting the game films of opposing teams who tackled each other on Friday nights at local high schools. And I can still get caught up in watching a game, whether it's on TV or in a movie. Of course, a movie is better when it also has a story, say, something like Brian's Song or The Longest Yard.

That brings us to Remember the Titans. I'd only seen it once and in the cut-up-for-TV version until the DVD came out, after which I knew I had to add it to my library. Of course, now I don't know how often I've watched it, but the film draws me in every time — and not for the scenes of human carnage on the field.

There's a story here, based on fact, about a new coach leading a team of underachievers to a championship season against formidable opposition. Some characterize such narratives as schmaltzy or sentimental, but they're also the stuff of everyday life. And the film reveals an explosive subtext, again part of the factual story, dealing with race relations in this 1970s Southern community and its newly integrated school system. Not a pretty picture.

The conflict and resolution of Remember the Titans may seem straightforward, but it makes for a compelling and watchable movie. In lead roles, Denzel Washington and Will Patton are well matched as reluctant adversaries who learn to become friends. The youngster who plays Patton's feisty football fanatic daughter is priceless and more like Vince Lombardi than should be possible for an 8-year-old girl! Her character serves as a wrap-around story narrator and, in the body of the film, as a visible example of the shift in attitude that eventually bridges the clashing cultures.

Remember the Titans is a rousing good football film, an effective exploration of cultural conflict and change, and a true touchingly human story.

 

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