Published Sep 01, 2000Denzel Washington's infatuation with the "true" story continues this fall with the football flick "Remember the Titans." The movie is set in Virginia in the early '70s with school desegregation forcing together black and white students into what proves to be a volatile mix. The film focuses on the repercussions for the T.C. Williams Titans, a high school football team that had known glory under the tutelage of former Head Coach Yost, played stiffly by Bill Paxton. The board has decided that Coach Boone (Denzel Washington) was now going to be charge of the squad. The scene is set to investigate the trouble and triumph of a high school team not only dealing with draw plays and audibles, but, also with the various complexities of race relations in the 1971 Virginia.
The movie, to its credit, moves swiftly from training camp to the season and to the eventual, if somewhat expected, climax. Not much time is given to the audience to get bored. The opening sequence uses the Band Of Gypsies "Them Changes" to get the audience in a buoyant mood that is fed throughout with Gump-like servings of hits from the era by CCR, Cat Stevens, James Taylor, the Temptations and Sam Cooke among others. These numerous montages propel the action forward and give the audience a needed break from the somewhat rigid dialogue and sermonising that Washington seems to have taken a liking to since his turn as Malcolm X a few years ago. This movie is, after all, is a Disney production and uses obvious strokes to paint the "bad guys" as unthinking racists with as much depth as the broad side of a cereal box. The precarious little girl character seems to have been thrown in to make "Remember the Titans" a family film with something for everyone. Another distinct Disney aspect is the propensity that the director uses sweeping orchestration to underscore the morality drenched speeches that Coach Boone and Coach Yost enjoy giving so much. It seems that Washington at first, then eventually Paxton, cannot speak without the ventricle-tugging string section helping them elucidate their superior point of view.
The sanitised script and the hokey 180-degree character turnarounds do not help make this a believable picture nor does it detract too much from the films more admirable qualities. In the end, the film pushes all the right buttons and takes the audience on a quick journey through a football season and (gulp) even something more important than football. What makes the film enjoyable is not the maudlin performances of Washington and Paxton but the collection of actors who play the Titans. Each one sketching out a personality and motivations beyond what the script has to offer.