Coach Carter (6/10)
by Tony Medley
This could just as easily
been entitled “Hoosiers (1986) in the Hood,” except for the fact that
the primary point it makes, which is about life and the relative
importance of sports vis-à-vis education, is
more important than the point in “Hoosiers.” Ken Carter (Samuel L.
Jackson), who played and set all their records 15 years before, accepts
a $1,000 stipend to become basketball coach at Richman High School, of a
team that won only four games the prior year. On his first day he
requires his players to sign a contract pursuant to which they, among
other things, agree to maintain a 2.3 GPA, will attend class every day,
sit in the front row, and wear a coat and tie on game day. This causes
lots of problems as Carter is an unyielding man. It really blows up as
the team becomes successful but Carter wants his players to live up to
the contract. Everyone turns against him. This part of the film is an
inspiring journey, especially considering it’s based on fact.
Enter Producer MTV
and its B story, a love story between a player, Kenyon Stone (Rob
Brown), and Kyra (Ashanti, who is described by MTV as a “singing
sensation”). I thought this was one of the best films of the year while
watching the basketball/Carter portion. Jackson is very good as the
committed coach and his players are believable. But at the end, MTV’s
secular agenda greatly diminished my enthusiasm, and that’s a shame
because it detracted from a laudable premise.
Throughout the film Kyra is
pregnant. I didn’t like the fact that two black high school students had
conceived an out of wedlock baby and that they just took it matter of
factly. But what really got my goat was when Kyra kills the baby by
having an abortion with absolutely no emotion whatever. She didn’t
undergo any trauma and Kenyon didn’t seem to care. It was treated as it
had about the same importance as if she just went to have a splinter
removed. All Kenyon cared about was that he wasn’t there to be with her.
Not to worry, says Kyra, my father went with me. Oh, OK. Of course, the
fact that she terminated a healthy life that will never be didn’t seem
to bother her or Kenyon, or, I guess, her father.
and the resulting single parent families are epidemic among black
teenagers and this film will be seen mostly in black neighborhoods. It’s
an outrage that out of wedlock pregnancy and abortion are treated with
such callous indifference by MTV. But, then, MTV is the outlet that
promotes rap music that glorifies the brutalization of women.
This is a morally
schizophrenic film. On the one hand it proclaims the good values that an
education is more important than sport, and that young people must make
commitments and live up to them. On the other hand it puts forth a
scurrilous moral viewpoint with respect to sex, accepting as the natural
course of things that teenagers can have sex without responsibility
while in high school and that abortion is a painless solution to an
trumpet the fact that Mark Ellis of Reel Sports, who also did the
casting for “Miracle” last year, cast this movie. Ellis says that all
the players chosen had to have played high school basketball and been
All Conference and/or All Star Players. This is artfully worded,
however, and I don’t believe that that included the lead characters.
This feeling is buttressed by
the manipulative camera work. There were so many tight shots that you
really can’t see much basketball. It looked almost like TNT, who
constantly cuts to the low camera behind the basket on fast breaks so
you can’t see anybody but the sole player cutting for the basket. An
under the basket camera is used on a majority of the scenes of actual
basketball games in this film and
it’s not only boring, it demeans the quality of the basketball. That’s
why I don’t think that the actors are really basketball players. If they
were, we’d see them playing in wide shots where we could really see the
athleticism of the actors. We see only very few wide shots. Instead what
we get are mostly dizzying quick cuts from close up to close up, so you
can’t really see people actually playing basketball. What you do see is
very short individual moves. It reminded me of the “dancing” in
“Chicago” (2002). For me, it was very disappointing, considering the
talent they claimed.
Another fault I found with
the film is technical. I’ve played a lot of basketball. I’ve never heard
a referee say, “UCLA Ball out.” Or “USC ball out.” It’s “White out,” or
“red out.” They make their calls by the color of the uniform. But in
this film whenever the refs make a call they often call out the name of
the team, “Richman out.” This seemed unprofessional, unless the game has
changed in the two decades since I played.
The Samuel L. Jackson part of
the film is so good that I would have given this at least an 8 had it
not been for the manipulative camera work that doesn’t show real
basketball, the calm acceptance of the out of wedlock pregnancy in black
high school students, and the shameless promotion of abortion.
January 12, 2005