Set in Virginia during the early '70s, the story revolves around Herman Boone (Washington), an African-American football coach who, as a part of the state's effort to racially integrate its school system, is transferred to a high school in Alexandria. This doesn't sit well with the local community, which stands behind the school's present and Hall of Fame-bound white coach, Bill Yoast (Will Patton), who has guided the town's beloved Titans football team through many winning seasons. Taking a demotion as the team's defensive coordinator, Yoast agrees to come to summer football camp, where Boone rules with an iron--but fair--fist. With his eyes on the prize, Boone determinedly attempts to shape his hostile players--both black and white--into a true team, which means getting them to put aside racial prejudices. By forcing them to interact on and off the field, Boone slowly but surely sees results, and the blossoming interracial friendships includes one between him and Yoast. However, all the progress made at camp becomes severely threatened when the Titans return to the reality of a divided Alexandria, where the community is not quite ready to accept the genuine camaraderie between black and white individuals.
Washington, who has built a career on delivering onscreen rousing speeches ("The Hurricane," "The Siege," "Crimson Tide"), is given ample opportunity in "Remember the Titans" to once again do what he does best. It's just too bad that his immense talent is wasted on such cliché-ridden moments as a tearful cry for unity next to the Gettysburg cemetery or a locker room half-time speech urging his players to be the best that they can be. That's not to say that these scenarios are inherently beyond hope, but simply that Washington's past performances have raised the bar on heartstring-pulling monologues and, in spite of his characteristic strong delivery, the weakness of the script never allows him to fully move the audience as much as intended.
However, "Remember the Titans" is not without its moments, and football enthusiasts in particular will appreciate the cast's believable portrayals of players passionate about the game. One only wishes that the fervor depicted within the 100 yard markers could have successfully carried over to the racial issues being explored off the field. Starring Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Donald Faison and Nicole Ari Parker. Directed by Boaz Yakin. Written by Gregory Allen Howard. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Chad Oman. A Buena Vista release. Rated PG for mild violence. Running time: 107 min