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Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt
Remember the Titans
Gridiron Family Drama Scores
1971 was still a turbulent time for the Civil Right movement in America. Three years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., public schools remained segregated and violence often erupted in the streets.
Coming on the heels of a racially-motivated murder, the desegregation of T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia caused a highly-charged environment to become even more volatile. Nowhere was this potential tumult more apparent then with the forced integration of the celebrated T.C. Williams football team, the Titans.
As we are told in the beginning moments of Remember the Titans (released last summer and now available on video and DVD), high school football in the South is a religion. The film's plot, using the true life story of Coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) and how he fostered interracial teamwork within the team, is a macrocosm depicting the times in which it is set: football is a way of life, thus life is reflected in football. If black and white can't get along in the real world, how can they win a simple football game?
Director Boaz Yakin deftly balances the perilous line between melodramatics and realism, only occasionally lacquering on the high-gloss sheen of typical Hollywood "feel good" message movies (Pay It Forward, anyone?) a little to thick. His greatest asset is in the fine ensemble of actors assembled for the film.
In previous films ranging from Philadelphia to The Preacher's Wife, Denzel Washington has always been a bit of a cypher to me. His well-honed characterizations, while technically impressive, are often cold and distant; it's as if he's to dignified to break a sweat. But then along comes a role such as his Oscar-winning turn in Glory. With a mischievous glint in his eye and a sly smirk of a grin on his face, one can sense the power bubbling just below the surface. He brings a touch of this "wild side" within to his performance in Remember the Titans. Barking orders like a drill sergeant, clenched fist beating the air, actor Washington takes command over the audience as easily as Coach Boone commands his players. As Edward James Olmos accomplished in the similarly themed Stand and Deliver, Washington resists the deification of the non-fictional individual he is portraying. Not a saint, he is simply a regular man just trying to do his job the best way he knows how, even if it is in the middle of a modern civil war.