Remember the Titans (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

We did a "best football movie" poll on the web site some weeks ago, and this film was the only one about which my readers disagreed with IMDb members. The IMDb dudes placed this in the top six, and our guys didn't much care for it.

I'm not sure why, because it's a helluva good flick, and a true story.

I think it may be related to what people prefer in sports movies:

Some sports movies are really about sports. While they can't ignore the fact that athletes are people, and thus various human interactions occur, the primary focus is what happens in the life of a player or team on the field and as a consequence of playing the sport. North Dallas Forty is a good example of this type of movie.

Other sports films are not really about sports. They use the context of athletic competition or preparation to make some larger point about life, and so it is with Remember the Titans. This is a film about how we erect barriers between one another, and how sometimes we break them down. It is a film about how we humans learn slowly and forget easily. More important, it is a film about how when we remove the barriers, when we do learn, and when we don't forget, we reach the highest points of our lives.


none. It's a Disney film, for heaven's sake.
I believe it was Sir Isaac Newton who said, "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants". Coincidentally, Titans are Giants, and this film is about them standing on each other's shoulders to see farther.

Back around 1971, a school district was realigned, a high school in Virginia was integrated for the first time, and the politically inspired personnel shifts caused a white coach to lose his job, and to end up as the assistant to a black coach on a newly-integrated team. The team ended up winning the state championship, which was convenient for the story, but that isn't the point of the tale. The real focus is on the journey, and not on the destination.

Is it unsubtle and emotionally manipulative? It is possible to make those points, but to do so seems precious, because all literature and story-telling is about compression to achieve some type of emotional or intellectual impact, and about imposing form and structure on events which are essentially chaotic before the writer starts assembling them. This is the illusion of literature, and when you really boil away all the bullshit and get to the marrow, it is why we like literature in the first place. The compressed form of a play or novel gives us an emotional or intellectual distillation that is either absent from reality, or at least invisible to those of us who lack the talent to see it. If you were to try to describe the essence of what these kids and their coaches did in real life, you'd have made the same choices the filmmakers did. They picked a few characters, the key themes, focused in tight, and created a tidy little mass-market gem.

Does it gloss over the ugliness of racial hatred? Yes, this is the one real glaring weakness of the movie. The initial reluctance of the team members to accept one another doesn't include any real deep-seeded racism with all the attendant hate. We don't see the attitudes produced by a lifetime of conditioning, but just simple little misunderstandings that can be overcome within a couple days of emotional manipulation by the coaches. People never seem to hate each other as much in this movie as they do in real life, or say the ugly things they say in real life. As I see it, that also hampers the film from delivering its maximum emotional impact, because if the kids had to overcome something uglier and deeper, their ultimate triumph would seem that much more impressive.

But again, I think it's important that we think of the film not in terms of "superficial for a racial analysis". It makes more sense to think of it as "deep for a football movie". It is intended to be a feel-good crowd pleaser, a mass entertainment with a sensitive inner core. And I believe it succeeds on those terms. It isn't "Schindler's List", but not every film can use the Holocaust as a backdrop. If it panders to mass tastes and easy answers - well, so does Schindler's List, and they were both supposed to make money, you know. If the studio boys can make their cash cows show social consciousness, I much prefer that to mindless shoot-em-ups. Let's be thankful for movies like this from the studios, given the other evil things they might have done with the money. Let's consider the glass half full, not half empty.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen anamorphic 2.35

  • three featurettes

  • see the main body of the text

  • six deleted scenes

Disney made a good movie here, but an even better DVD, because the flick has two alternate sound track commentaries. One of them is the usual stuff with the director, producer and writer. That's good enough, but the other one is what is really special.

The entire feature-length commentary is made by a couple of old non-movie guys named Bill Yoast and Herman Boone. Who they hell are they? Well, back around 1970, one of them was a white coach who lost his head coaching job to the other man, the new black head coach. They made quite a team, and quite a friendship that has lasted 30 years, long enough for somebody to make a movie about them.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars acdross the board. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 3/4, Apollo 77, Maltin 3/4.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 73% positive overall, 68% from the top critics.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.8, Apollo users 78/100.
  • With their dollars ... a solid hit and money maker for the Mouse Boys. Grossed more than $100 million domestically on a $30 million budget.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B-. Hollywood is going to continue to make films for a profit. Given that fact, let's rejoice when they also show some social conscience.

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