Coach Carter – 3 Stars (Good)
Samuel L. Jackson plays Coach Ken Carter in a good sports drama with an outstanding message for today's high school basketball players who see playing with the pros as their only objective in life.
Coach Carter, a successful sporting goods store owner and an outstanding athlete in his day, returns to his alma mater which is located in a poor area of Richmond (CA). He inherits a team with players that have a poor attitude, poor performance and virtually no expectations for their future should they fail to advance their basketball careers. The team at Richmond High School is designed to have its student athletes fail by not requiring greater expectations, discipline and accountability. Coach Carter is the centerpiece of this movie about values based on a true story of a California team.
He immediately lays down the law, Carter style, demanding discipline, hard work and accountability. Carter and his players sign a written contract that demands standards for behavior, a dress code and good grades to stay eligible to play. Carter believes that scholarship and ethics should go hand in hand with outstanding basketball play.
Given some standards to meet, his players take a 180 degree turn and start winning from the outset of the season, going undefeated through several games. Then the community starts showering them with attention and praise and the players become overconfident and ignore their class attendance and studies. Carter finds out that several of his players are nearly failing and takes immediate action, benching his team and shutting down the basketball program until the players toe the mark in their studies. You can imagine the reaction of the parents and community in general.
Coach Carter finds himself under immense pressure to give his players a pass. He becomes probably the only basketball coach in America to stand fast with an undefeated team. He flatly refuses to cave in, forcing his players to be accountable for their performance both on and off the court.
This is an incredible story of a coach who will not compromise his values by not compromising his integrity. Coach Carter has the guts and audacity to stand fast and right wills out in the end. Listen to what Coach Carter has to say at his board hearing: "You really need to consider the message you're sending these boys by ending the lockout. It's the same message that we as a culture send to our professional athletes, and that is that they are above the law.
"If these boys can not honor the simple rules of a basketball contract, how long do you think it will be before they're out there breaking the law?
"I played ball here at Richmond High 30 years ago. It was the same thing then; some of my teammates went to prison, some of them even ended up dead. If you vote to end the lockout, you will not have to terminate me, I'll quit. "
Powerful? You better believe it. Ignore the violence, sexual content, poor language, teen partying and drug material in this film, it is just Hollywood's clumsy way of stereotyping high school basketball players. There is too little recognition in films for prep basketball players who are not only outstanding collegiate and professional prospects but also outstanding students with great character and values.
Nonetheless, there are players like Coach Carter inherited, and this movie illustrates an important and needed statement about what really matters. Coach Carter is not interested in winning games to advance his career; he is totally focused on making young men into confident, productive, well adjusted adults.
Thankfully, the movie Coach Carter enjoyed some success, generating the highest opening weekend ($ 24 million) of any release by an MTV film. There was little recognition for this film among the most prestigious award givers. No matter. It was an Academy Award message in its own right.
See this movie for its excellent message. And yes, take your children with you, they need the message even more than you do, they are now in the spotlight and you are behind it.
Copyright 2007 Ed Bagley