STUDIO: Warner Bros.
MSRP: $19.98
RATED: Unrated
RUNNING TIME: 94 Minutes

The Pitch

It’s every heartwarming sports story you’ve ever seen meets almost every civil rights movie you’ve ever seen.

The Humans

Andre Braugher, Rip Torn, Ruby Dee, Bill Nunn, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Sean Squire

Some folks are bothered by the ritualistic free throw preparations, but I say hey, whatever works.

The Nutshell

In 1965, New Orleans High School sports are still segregated. Black teams play amongst themselves but never have a chance to compete for the city championships, while the white teams get all the press, glory and opportunities. But don’t worry, one of these teams surely has to be destined to change things for the better.

The Package

Probably the most bland cover art I’ve seen in all the reviews I’ve done for CHUD. Interesting thing though, Andre Braugher plays a priest in the movie and every time we see him he has the traditional priest garb on, but for some reason, on the cover, his white priest-collar has been digitally removed. Why? I don’t know. Maybe a black priest is too radical for the average consumer. I guess we’ll never know.

Ever since he retired, Mr. Smith always wanted to yell at some kid to get off of his damn lawn, but no. Damn kids today with their manners and respect.

Now, seeing as this was a made-for-tv movie, the transfer is obviously full screen and doesn’t look any different than it did in it’s original 1999 exhibition on TNT. They did include a Dolby surround track but it’s nothing special and doesn’t sound that different than if it was played through a regular stereo television.

In the Bonus Department…well…there is no bonus department. So there ya go.

The Lowdown

There’s not a lot to say here. You’ve seen this movie before. All of you have. Sure, when you saw it maybe it was called Coach Carter, or Remember the Titans, or Glory Road, or Miracle, or any other heartwarming sports movie that featured an underdog of a team in whom you were supposed to have faith, a spitfire of a coach who dissented against tradition and an impending challenge that would test our team’s mettle and dedication. The only thing that varies in these movies is that either the team will rise to the challenge and win the big game, or try admirably but just miss the bar, gaining respect in the process. Oh – and of course it was based on a true story. This is indeed every sports movie you’ve ever seen before.

Grass ain't greener!
"Seth falls and he gets Meg Ryan. I fall and I’m still workin’ for the big man."

However there’s another aspect to this story that sort of sets it apart and that’s the civil rights angle. See, this underdog team plays for a black high school in 1965 New Orleans. And they’re a good team. Best black team in the city. I say "best black team" because the New Orleans UIL (or whatever the governing athletic board was called back then) kept the black and white teams segregated. Black teams played against each other while white teams played for major championships, newspaper articles and college scholarships. This is where our new coach comes in. While everyone in town is fairly content to just go about their daily lives, refusing to acknowledge the dire social straits they face, Father Verrett (Braugher) comes in with not just the ideals but the balls to back them up. This of course rubs off on his players, mainly Travis Porter (Squire). When Porter begins to see the broken spirits of his family and friends, he decides to take Verrett’s cause a few steps further and actually organizes a basketball game between his team and the City-Champion White Team. I really don’t think I’m spoiling anything when I say Verrett’s team wins and the next basketball season, all teams, regardless of color, are allowed to play in the same league for the same championship.

The Bulldogs saw the future. A future of colorful sneakers and, gasp, shorts that actually went past their fingertips. They were stunned.

Now, again, this is a true story. If it wasn’t it would be almost to cliché to bear. However, it was written by the real life Travis Porter (Harold Sylvester), so I’m willing to give it a pass. This isn’t a flashy Hollywood dramatization, it’s a real movie written by someone who actually lived it. And the movie itself isn’t bad. Steve James does a decent job of direction and all the performances are solid, if not a little uninspired.

In the end it’s a movie that does everything well, but has been done so many times (and honestly been done better) before it’s hard for this one to stand out as anything but a labor of love from the guy who experienced it first hand. But hey, that’s worth something in and of itself.

5.0 out of 10