What's Happening!! meets Glory Road

Pride

on March 23, 2007 by John P. McCarthy
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More worrisome than four credited screenwriters or Tom Arnold portraying the villain are the two chyrons book-ending the short prologue to Pride. The first reads “Salisbury, North Carolina, 1964”; the second sets the main action in “Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1974, Ten Years Later.” If the filmmakers believe the audience needs help counting, they won't be subtle when spelling out the vital themes of this fact-based sports drama. As for the writing quartet, who knows whether fewer cooks would have prepared a more original script; and, though Arnold's acting talents shouldn't be dismissed (see Happy Endings ), his presence contributes to the feeling you're watching a mid-1970s sitcom. Pride is so bland and predictable that there's nothing to prevent your mind from wandering off to Fat Albert cartoons, television dramas like Room 222 and The White Shadow, or any of the recent theatrical releases in which race relations plus athletic competition are meant to equal inspiration.

Terrence Howard goes from self-improving pimp in Hustle & Flow to squeaky-clean swim coach Jim Ellis, a man who, according to the prologue, felt the heel of racism on his neck as a swimmer. Ellis arrives at a rundown Philly rec center and starts a swim program, saving the facility from closure, transforming kids' lives and rallying the community. With the help of the maintenance chief (Bernie Mac) and with an eye on winning over the local councilwoman (Kimberly Elise), he instills self-respect and discipline. The main hurdles are the young people's low expectations and the neighborhood pimp-cum-drug dealer. But rehabilitation happens with a minimum of fuss, and the team soon competes on a high level, even earning the respect of Arnold's bigoted coach of a lily-white crosstown rival.

Along with costumes and other design elements, the kids' goofy behavior harkens back to 1970s stereotypes. “No Clowning In or Out of Pool” is stenciled on the wall but is made obsolete by a barrage of teamwork platitudes. Granted, it's hard to be original in this space, and pride is a complicated emotion — necessary for success but also a deadly sin. Plus, no matter how corny or awkward, an underdog movie will always tug a little. At the end we see footage of the real Jim Ellis today, still asking his charges to embody the Philadelphia Department of Recreation acronym: Pride, Determination and Resilience. Distributor: Lionsgate
Cast: Terrence Howard, Bernie Mac, Kimberly Elise and Tom Arnold
Director: Sunu Gonera
Screenwriters: Kevin Michael Smith & Michael Gozzard and J. Mills Goodloe and Norman Vance, Jr.
Producers: Brett Forbes, Patrick Rizzotti, Michael Ohoven, Adam Rosenfelt and Paul Hall
Genre: Sports drama
Rating: PG for thematic material, language including some racial epithets, and violence
Running time: 105 min.
Release date: March 23, 2007

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