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T. C. Williams High School is about to be desegregated,
All for PC reasons no one in the town is for.
When Herman Boone is named head football coach, he’s widely hated
By white men for replacing William Yoast, whom they adore.
 
Boone is black, and Yoast is white, and neither one enjoys the fuss;
Yoast could leave, but he remains to still help flinty Boone.
As the black and white team members gather for the practice bus,
They are told to sit together and to share a room.
 
Summer practice is a bear as Boone exacts a rigid pace,
Saying they must all be “perfect,” just to make the team.
Except for one, they’re distant from those of the other race,
But Boone demands they mingle, making workouts more extreme.
 
Yoast is suspect of this tactic, but it seems to do the trick.
Julius and Bertier become especially close friends.
Although they’re now a unit, eager for some butts to kick,
The town is still indignant as the summer training ends.
 
Though the Titans win some games, Boone knows he’s fired if they should lose.
Bertier is left alone by his white friends for his pal’s sake.
Yet, as the team keeps winning and the Titans make the news,
A few begin to think their enmity was a mistake.
 
While high on recent victory, Bertier endures a sudden crash
That makes him paraplegic and prevents continued play.
He watches as the Titans and their toughest rivals clash
In the final championship, in which the Titans win the day.
 
Boone and Yoast went on to coach their team for several years to come;
Bertier played in the Paralympics and won shot put gold.
Although he died in ’81, he helped his team become
A colorblind success for every high school to behold.
____________________
 

Remember the Titans is one of those inspiring football movies that everyone can root for, even though they already know the inevitably inspiring end. By mixing in the racial tension of the 1970s, the film creates a more difficult conflict to rise above than most sports films. Normally the main conflict has to do with the underdog team surmounting hardships to achieve victory in a final game. While that is certainly present, particularly in the down-to-the-minute Hollywood ending, the Titans end up winning every game they play. The real struggle is not with the opposite team but with the prevailing mindset of the day, of blacks and whites disliking and distrusting each other such that a united team seems impossible. The animosity is well-balanced between the two sides, and while the continued racism of the characters becomes increasingly frustrating as most just don’t “get” it while a chosen few do, seeing such divides fall in the wake of friendship and brotherhood can’t help but bring a smile to one’s face.

Denzel Washington gives one of his best performances as Coach Herman Boone, as does Will Patton, whom I never would have thought of as a football coach based on his subtly smooth voice in other roles (see Entrapment and No Way Out). Washington’s exchange about football being fun (or not) is a great scene that is not nearly well-known enough. I also liked Hayden Panettiere as Yoast’s football-crazed young daughter and Ethan Suplee as Louie Lastik, who seems like the only one without a shred of prejudice, and the rest of the cast fill their roles well enough, though many don’t make as much of an impression.

If you like football movies or films about overcoming prejudice, Remember the Titans is a must. I know it’s because it is a Disney film, but I applaud the fact that the filmmakers exhibited racial tension without a bunch of profanity or even using the N-word, as so many other such films do. In addition, it boasts an excellent soundtrack of ‘60s and ‘70s pop music that serves as a welcome shot of nostalgia, especially when the characters themselves start singing. In addition to the Titans’ famous theme song, I was touched at how they changed the song “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” into a poignant sendoff at a funeral. It may fool with some of the particulars of the true story it is based upon and oversimplify the issues at hand, but it shows that football, almost as much as love, faith, and the like, has the power to bring people together and break down barriers.

Best line: (Boone) “Think you got a future in football?” (Lastik) “Heck, no! I figured as long as I’m going to be in school, I might as well hit some people while I’m at it.”

 
Artistry: 8
Characters/Actors: 9
Entertainment: 8
Visual Effects: N/A (there was one car crash, but not much else)
Originality: 6
Watchability: 8
 
TOTAL: 39 out of 60
 

Next: #223 – Fiddler on the Roof

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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