Coach Carter

on January 14, 2005 by Tim Cogshell
Thomas Carter cut his teeth as the young director of hot television shows like "Miami Vice" and "Hill Street Blues" in the '80s. He has since directed a number fairly middlin' feature projects ("Swing Kids," "Metro," and, more recently, "Save the Last Dance"), but his earliest work was as a young actor/director on the late '70s television series "The White Shadow." Its now-politically-incorrect title notwithstanding, the program was about a white basketball coach who turns around a poor (predominantly black) inner-city high-school basketball team with tough love and discipline. "Coach Carter" (the surname is a coincidence) is effectively an elaborate episode of "The White Shadow," with a black guy playing the coach. Despite the fact that this highly didactic morality play is based on the real-life events of coach Ken Carter (played by Samuel L. Jackson), it is as trite and pedantic as that 20-year-old television series.

Ken Carter, a successful entrepreneur and former college basketball star, returns to his old high school to take on a losing team of kids who have little respect for him and none for themselves. The ensuing elements are reminiscent of "To Sir with Love" and "Dangerous Minds" with a dash of "Bad News Bears" and "Mighty Ducks," yet it is somehow utterly intolerable with its indulgence in inner-city stereotypes, overt preaching and simple antidotes. All the performances are bad, the writing is of Learning Annex ilk, and the directing is surprisingly juvenile, except for the basketball sequences, which are dominated by a score that is absolutely Wagnerian. Starring Samuel L Jackson, Rob Brown, Robert Richard, Rick Gonzalez, Nana Gbewonyo, Antwon Tanner, Channing Tatum and Ashanti. Directed by Thomas Carter. Written by Mark Schwahn and John Gatins. Produced by Brian Robbins and Mike Tollin and David Gale. A Paramount release. Drama. Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content, language, teen partying and some drug material. Running time: 136 min.

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