Back in 1986, Hoosiers became the sole basketball film that every fan needs to see at least once. Everything after it seems so unnecessary. That’s also the case of Coach Carter. It’s hard not to like it admittedly, it’s just no different then the list of movies that Coach Carter lands on which try to feed off everything Hoosiers did right.
Is this a story that needs told? Yes. Is this a story that would make a great book or extended Sports Illustrated article? Yes. Does it need to be a movie? No. If you can imagine the writers of Hoosiers and Dangerous Minds coming together to craft a basketball film, then you can already see where Coach Carter is going.
You already know all of these characters if you’ve ever seen a sports movie before. You know where this movie is headed. You know it’s going to come down the final basket in the big game. You know they’ll have conflicts on and off the court. That’s not spoiling anything.
The same can be said for last years Miracle. It was predictable since the story is so well known, but it brought with it some amazing hockey sequences that made the film worth watching. That’s not true for the basketball games in Coach Carter. There is no attempt to make them stand out or different. The aggravating use of slow motion seems ripped right out of 1982. If you’re a basketball fan, you’ll also see just how choreographed these games are on multiple occasions.
That’s rather odd too. Director Thomas Carter (no relation) began his directing career on The White Shadow, an obscure late-70s TV show focusing on basketball. It seems his style hasn’t changed at all, and that’s what brings most of the complaints. You can also see how the camera seems so focused on product placement, if only to inform you that you need more Polaroid film and Band-Aids.
That’s not to say the performances aren’t worthwhile. All of these kids are fine actors, and Samuel L. Jackson never has an off day. The parents play their roles realistically, which is sadly a statement on where parents priorities seem to be in this country.
If this is supposed to be a message film, one that’s supposed to wake up student athletes, then the film misses that mark too. It should not end in a basketball game, regardless of the outcome. When you leave the theater or take the disc out of your DVD player, the last thing on your mind is that big tournament game, not that these kids turned their lives around in predictable fashion.
If you want to look at this film not as a basketball movie but one centered on education, that’s understandable. It still doesn’t work. Then it becomes an even worse “good but misguided kids meet inspirational person” film. That’s not denouncing anything the real Ken Carter did. He’s a wonderful person for what he did. Unfortunately, his story has been covered before by Hollywood, and better. (** out of *****)
The DVD presents the film in 2.35:1 widescreen, with, unfortunately, a pan & scan version available separately. This isn’t an award winning transfer, just one that doesn’t offer much to scrutinize. Minor edge enhancement and grain are the biggest problems and most noticeable. These are the type of problems that will not bother you unless you’re literally looking for them. The color is captured perfectly, compression barely makes its presence felt, and there are only minor instances of aliasing. (****)
The only audio option here is a 5.1 mix. Sports movies should be able to draw you into the stadium with the surrounds working overtime. That doesn’t happen here. The loudest thing in this film is the soundtrack, pushing punishing bass every time it makes it to full volume. Everything else stays in the front speakers and provides little to impress a hardcore audiophile. While all the dialogue is clear, this should offer up so much more. (***)
The extras, while few in number, are quite informative and well worth a look. Coach Carter: The Man behind the Movie tells the story from Ken Carter himself and his players. It doesn’t touch on anything that the movie didn’t. It’s just more interesting to hear it from the real people who experienced it. It’s the longest feature here, clocking in at 19-minutes.
Fast Break at Richmond High is a look at the how the basketball players/actors were found and the training they went through. It also looks at how the director shot it all. Six deleted scenes are over quickly, and wise cuts, especially with the film overstaying its welcome at over two hours. It ends with an Ashanti music video and trailers. A commentary track that discusses the differences between the film and real story is the most needed feature, and sadly, one that’s not included. (***)
If the documentary included on this disc were feature length, it would be better than the movie. It’s an interesting story and one worth learning about. Unfortunately, that just doesn’t immediately make an enjoyable film, and if you’ve been a sports movie fan for any number of years, you’ve seen this movie before under a different title.