ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  thomas carter

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  biography

LENGTH  -  134 minutes

RELEASED  -  14 january 2005

DISTRIBUTOR  -  paramount pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  coach carter

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $30,000,000
coach carter - a shot from the film


buy the soundtrack from coach carter at

buy the soundtrack from coach carter at

about a controversial high school basketball coach who benched his undefeated team due to their collective poor academic record in 1999.

represents the highest opening weekend of any release from an mtv films: $24,182,961


picture from coach carter

picture from coach carter

picture from coach carter

picture from coach carter


two out of four possible stars

The practice of adding a group of down-trodden kids with almost any classically American sport is an oft-used formula whose application is best helped by a coach with a loud, booming voice and lead star Samuel L. Jackson certainly fits that bill. But interestingly, despite the power and presence Jackson is able to create in most of his roles, he is not always as effective as he should be with this specific persona. As the coach of an under-achieving group of inner-city, Jackson's failure to really make his character a fully engaging presence is the probable result of a lack of energy in the script.

Overall, the film is suitably though not impressively cast and most of the young actors chosen for the roles of the young basketball athletes are able to make decent strides with the dialogue, though no single performer can really take the script out of its mediocrity. Perhaps mediocrity is a strong word for a film that attempts to be a simple sports triumph film, but when the scenes showcasing the basketball games don't give you goose bumps, it's obvious the emotional quotient of the film is lacking.

The most engaging moments of a sports film are the scenes when the chosen sport is being played and the down on their luck characters triumph over their adversaries. And while the technical aspects of the games are choreographed with an agility one would expect from a modern sports film, there is still an emotional grip or hook missing from most of the game scenes. The young actors each seem to have a good handle on performing the basketball games, but their technical agility alone isn't quite enough to keep one's interest over the course of the film's rather inflated running time of 134 minutes.

Perhaps its the familiar approach to the general idea that contributes to the film's light dramatic impact. The movie's basic idea is a good place to start an emotional biography, but when the execution is handled in such a predictable manner, an overabundance of good performances are needed and in that area, this film is not necessarily lacking, but neither is it a dramatic heavyweight. And that idea can be applied to the entirety of the script and casting. A great idea and a worthy story seems to have been led astray by a lack of script ingenuity.

Despite its modest budget, the film is a well-made piece of cinema and although aspects such as cinematography, production design, and costuming are not something which can overtake the deficiencies in casting and script, though the technical and creative crew should feel that they accomplished as much as they were able concerning the visual design of the movie. But their efforts are somewhat in vain given the lack of a true visceral hold the film is able to create through its characters. Perhaps the film's only real draw is that its characters and story were based on true events.

Should then the real-life folks whose story has been offered up by MTV films find annoyance that their story has been given a less than enthusiastic display? Far too often during the course of the film it feels as if the filmmakers thought they could get away with a less than stellar script simply because they had basketball visuals and a hip-hop soundtrack to fall back on. When there's no basketball being played, the film turns into a one man show for Jackson's character because there's just nobody on screen with him who is able to hurl a few pieces of dialogue back with as much fervor as Jackson is able.

And truthfully, even Jackson himself seems unenthusiastic about his role and as the movie progresses, seems to be engaging in the motions of reciting his lines. It's difficult to label mediocre a film that boasts Jackson as part of its cast, but Coach Carter is a film filled with a strange subtlety that belongs nowhere near a high energy sports film. As Coach Carter, Jackson is dignified and is a solemn presence, but even though Carter was indeed a man who engendered respect from his players, his persona in this film is far too dignified for feature film territory.

Even if the real Coach Carter had been of this calm, sedate ilk, it would have been incumbent upon the filmmakers to take "dramatic license" to create some spark for the film. While the basic plot is certainly strong enough, staying true to the source material doesn't always make for good filmmaking. Of course, with the level of subdued theatrics in the film, it's entirely possible that the real-life story possessed a great deal more energy. In its present form, Coach Carter is a film that would exist very well on the pages of a novelized biography or as an article in a sports magazine. The idea and the story are certainly inspirational, but their transformation onto a piece of celluloid leaves far too much drama on the cutting room floor.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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