|Remember the Titans|
|Written by Mel Odom|
|Thursday, 01 November 2007|
When “Remember The Titans” hit the movie theaters in September 2000, it was THE feel-good movie of the year. Everybody was talking about it.
Jerry Bruckheimer teamed up with Walt Disney Pictures to bring the story to the big screen, pre-dating the success of “Pirates of the Caribbean” by three years. Bruckheimer was known primarily as an producer of expensive action movies, and had worked on several films with Walt Disney Studios’ Touchstone Pictures label to create a number of hits. The first film Bruckheimer did for Disney was “The Ref” in 1994.
“Remember the Titans” was considered edgy for Walt Disney Pictures. A few moviegoers had a problem with some of the issues (racism) that were portrayed in the film, and with the violence (such as the brick that was thrown through Herman Boone’s window at home).
The movie is based on the real-life events involving the forced integration of T. C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia. Black students poured into the school halls and onto the football field. They met a lot of resistance that took years to work out.
Even more radical, Herman Boone (played by Denzel Washington), with a combined heritage of African-American and Cherokee Indian, replaced incumbent and winning high school coach Bill Yoast (Will Patton) as head coach. The old school supporters were against the switch, and Yoast had hurt feelings over the change. Not only had he been the head coach for so long, but he was ten years Boone’s senior and had more experience at coaching. And that was before he had to deal with being a white man taking second place to a black man in those turbulent times.
Their struggle is mirrored in the enmity between Gerry Bertier (Ryan Hurst) and Julius Campbell (Wood Harris). Bertier was the team leader of the white students and took the lead in standing against the new black players. Campbell, even though he wasn’t looking to be a leader, ended up championing the black players. The two young men go head-to-head on several occasions, but you already knew that as much as they disliked each other, they were going to win the other’s respect.
Sports have always been viewed as a variant of war. The fields, diamonds, and courts throughout the world are the battlefields where champions are beaten, bloodied, born, and born again. The baptism is hard-handed and brutal, but those who rise to become home town favorites get to live off the fat of the land. That’s not exactly one of the messages of the film, but it’s there nonetheless.
“Remember The Titans” moves with an almost breathless pacing, driving directly into the heart of the racial issue and exposing it for what it is. However, since this is Disney and a feel-good movie too, the audience doesn’t get raked through the coals as to how bad things probably really were.
The focus is on the positive. Interestingly enough, more of Yoast’s story seems to be reflected on the screen than Herman Boone’s. We get more of Yoast’s interior as he struggles within the community and with his daughter Sheryl (played by Hayden Panettiere, who now stars as Claire Bennett, the cheerleader on mega-hit “Heroes”). I found myself sympathizing with Yoast because I grew up in those times in the Southwest and I know how confusing things where.
Boone’s story seems to focus more on the exterior, the physical and psychological resistance that he had to face. We don’t really know how he felt about things because he couldn’t talk about them much. Yoast serves as a foil for Boone’s interior as well, which helped enhance his character even more.
Hayden Panettiere is absolutely fabulous as Yoast’s daughter. The struggles and outrage she feels gave voice to a lot of what Yoast has to face and, like Boone, simply not talk about.
The growing friendship between Bertier and Campbell is magnificently portrayed by Harris and Hurst. I couldn’t help but think about Chicago Bears football players Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo in “Brian’s Song,” the made-for-television movie starring James Caan and Billy Dee Williams telecast the same year that the events at T. C. Williams High School were taking place. In a way it’s ironic that we’re having to show these stories, but our society has come a long way. My nine-year-old didn’t understand what prejudice was when he saw it in this story as well as “Glory Road”, which I recommend to anyone who enjoyed “Remember The Titans”. Like “Brian’s Song,” the story of Campbell and Bertier will make you laugh, then turn you to tears.
Donald Faison of “Scrubs” delivers a solid performance as Petey Jones, who can’t quite give the game everything because he keeps hearing footsteps. Ethan Suplee stars as Louie Lastik, the big center that struggles scholastically. Kip Pardue shines as Ronnie “Sunshine” Bass, who’s from California and doesn’t see any difference between black and white, but he’s from California so at first nobody gives him any credence.
The fast pace, the high emotion, the struggle for all characters to simply find some way to survive and grow in the changing world, and the whirlwind background of the school and the town all contribute to make an outstanding movie. But the musical score added to that so much.
The uncompressed format of the audio is stellar. It issues through the surround sound system like spun gold. Trevor Rabin, the music director, wrote the score. He wrote a dozen songs for the movie, but only one made it into the movie. The rest of the songs were all 1960s and 1970s songs from the likes of Ike & Tina Turner, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Tarrell, Eric Burdon, War, and James Taylor. The soundtrack to the movie sold well, too.
The visual aspects of the Blu-ray disc are gorgeous. The scenes are so bright and clear it looks like you can just step right onto the football fields with the team. The colors are great. Close-up shots are pristine, and the scenes in the Civil War battleground memorial are breathtaking because everything looks so clear the atmosphere seems to roll out of the screen and into the room with you.
A lot of creative license was taken, though. Sunshine never kissed Bertier in the locker room. There is no High School Coaches Hall of Fame that didn’t admit Yoast. Coach Terrell and Ray were characters created for the movie, not real people. Bertier wasn’t injured till after the season finished. Sheryl lived with her mother and sisters, not her father. Sadly, the team never danced on the football field.
“Remember The Titans” is an amazing film that has a decidedly light touch when it comes to serious issues. However, it plays fairly and entertains consistently. This is a great selection for family night, and maybe for little league team motivation evening for coaches. I’ve seen it several times, and I know I’ll see it several more times.