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Remember the Titans Reviews

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer seems to have been aiming for a new genre here — call it the steroidal message flick. But this mix of sweat and uplift in the Civil Rights era doesn't quite come off, despite some strong performances and the fact that it's based on a genuinely inspirational true story. Alexandria, VA, 1971: African-American high-school football coach Harold Boone (Denzel Washington) replaces the titular Titans' popular white coach, Bill Yoast (Will Patton). Boone goes on to integrate the team, with all the intra- and extra-mural tzuris that entails, and ultimately turns the Titans into champions, in the process overcoming prejudice and bigotry on both sides of the town's racial divide. As we said, genuinely inspirational. But while director Boaz Yakin proves adept at staging high-octane football scenes, his handling of the story feels nakedly manipulative. The real problem, however (leaving aside the matter of Hayden Panettiere as Patton's precocious nine-year-old, football-junkie daughter; most sane viewers will want to throttle her immediately), is that you've seen — or in the case of Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky," heard — most of this before. This may not be the tenth film this year in which a bunch of half-naked jocks lip sync to an old R&B tune, but it feels as though it is. And God knows, you can predict practically to the second the point at which the various characters are going to see the light, tolerance wise. Still, at the risk of seeming insufficiently cynical, let us stipulate that any film saying that tolerance is a good thing has something going for it, especially in an era when too many politicians and pundits who know better would have us believe that racism is no longer a problem in American culture.