STUDIO: Walt Disney Video
MSRP: $19.99
RUNNING TIME: 113 Minutes
• English, Spanish, French subtitles
• Dolby Digital 5.1
• French language track
• "Denzel Becomes Boone" featurette
• "Beating the Odds" featurette
• "Remember the Titans: An Inspirational Journey Behind the Scenes" featurette
• 7 minutes longer than the theatrical cut

The Pitch

“It’s exactly like Rudy, but instead of one guy named Rudy, there’s a whole team of high school students. And instead of trying to get into Notre Dame, they’re trying to win a football season at TC Williams High School after racial reintegration in the South. Also, the Charles Dutton character is played by Denzel Washington, and he coaches the team.”

The Humans

Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Wood Harris, Ryan Hurst, Kate Bosworth, and a couple dozen other 20-somethings that are supposed to pass as high schoolers.

Before he became Christopher Turk, M.D., young Chris plied his dexterity in high school fisticuffs which often ended in a call to the local hospital and several visits to the principal’s office.

The Nutshell

In 1971, the football-crazed town of Alexandria, Virginia integrated three highly segregated high schools into TC Williams High School. To help smooth over race relations, the white head football coach of the school, Bill Yoast (Will Patton), is replaced by a black coach named Herman Boone (Denzel Washington). Because the existing white players threaten to sit out the season if Yoast leaves, Yoast decides to stay on as defensive coordinator. But finding a way for the black students and white students, not to mention Yoast and Boone, to get along and play football together becomes an enormous challenge that threatens to tear apart the team in their pivotal upcoming football season.

The Lowdown

Where has Boaz Yakin gone? After an auspicious and audacious directorial debut with the 1994 movie Fresh, Yakin made the little-seen film A Price Above Rubies four years later. He finally achieved some mainstream success with Remember the Titans in 2000 before making the deplorable Uptown Girls in 2002. Since then, he’s basically dropped off the map, though according to IMDB, he was an Executive Producer for Eli Roth’s Hostel.

Mr. Yakin, Hollywood needs you back. But not the Uptown Girls Yakin. We need the Fresh and Remember the Titans Yakin to remind us of the definition of solid craftsmanship, as it applies to film.

I distinctly remember the most recent time that I watched Remember the Titans. Just last year, I was teacher’s aide at a middle school and since the kids were good one day, the teacher decided to reward them with a viewing of this film in lieu of class. We wheeled in the television and popped in the ancient DVD. Towards the end of the film, I realized that tears were streaming down my face so I tried my hardest to wipe them away as quickly as possible. I didn’t want my students to see me cry, but that’s what the film does to me; it sneaks up and before you know it, its emotional claws are hooked in. Brilliantly crafted, spectacularly acted, and unabashedly sentimental, Remember the Titans is a film that stirs your heart, Rudy-style, and reminds you, overwhelmingly, of the strength of the human spirit.

As much as I love the film, repeated viewings clearly show its weaknesses. Some of the dialogue is stilted and implausible. A third act plot twist, in which a major character is injured, is extremely telegraphed and just too “Hollywood.” But most of the problems stem from the fact that the film offers a super-simplistic view of race. There are three types of characters in the film: Bigots, bigots who are transformed into agents of tolerance, and those that are tolerant to begin with. Though you could argue that people are roughly segmented this way in real life, the movie is as subtle as a large and noisy chainsaw with its characterizations (e.g. The evil-looking white player who won’t block for his black teammates, the rabble-rousing father that calls black people “coons”). But perhaps in this day and age, when talk of race relations can leave many people jaded, we need films like this with ultra-simplistic messages, just once in awhile, to remind us that the journey towards racial reconciliation can be monumentally difficult but ultimately rewarding and necessary.

Though her official name was Hayden, she was known to her friends and family by the shorter, abridged version.

The flaws never threaten to cripple the film, though; there are too many things to like in this movie. Denzel Washington is a revelation. Fresh off of playing another real-life character in The Hurricane his portrayal of the hard-as-nails Boone is nothing short of extraordinary. When he gives the inspirational speech to his players about the Titans of Greek mythology, you are ready to believe and do whatever he says. Ryan Hurst’s portrayal of Gerry Bertier is also a breakout performance that I don’t feel has gotten enough love. He embodies Bertier with an inner turmoil that is utterly moving. Wood Harris is passable, but it seems like he’s just starting to hone the fine skills he would eventually employ as Avon Barksdale in “The Wire.”

In addition to top-notch performances, the filmmaking is solid. I’m not a football expert, but in my opinion, the football scenes are all done competently, though they feel short and truncated (understandable, given the number of games they needed to portray throughout the season). The cinematography is excellent throughout the film, the soundtrack is fantastically integrated, and Trevor Rabin’s score has one of the more memorable themes I’ve heard in awhile.

If you’re a fan of well-made movies that leave you with the unmistakable sensation of triumph, go rent this or buy this now. Forget Miracle. Forget Glory Road. This is the sports film that will put a smile on your face and bring a tear to your eye.

The Package

Here’s where we run into some trouble. The original Remember the Titans DVD was a fine release by Disney, boasting an anamorphic widescreen transfer, a DTS track, two interesting commentaries, deleted scenes, a theatrical trailer and several featurettes. This release jettisons the DTS track, the two commentaries, and the trailer, and gives us only four deleted scenes. Yes, you read that correctly; all that stuff on the old disc is now gone. The missing two deleted scenes (present on the old disc but not on this new disc) were reincorporated back into the film. However, bizarrely, two of the so-called “deleted scenes” that are on this new disc were also reincorporated into the film. The featurettes are retained and they are as follows:

"Remember the Titans: An Inspirational Journey Behind the Scenes" (20:55) is an ABC television special hosted by former NFL star Lynn Swann. Much of this is fluff, and the abundance of film excerpts show that it’s an obvious attempt to promote the film. However, it does have a nice interview with the real life Herman Boone and Bill Yoast, and it also briefly documents an emotional Titans team reunion, in which the actors from the movie meet their real-life counterparts.

"Denzel Becomes Boone" (6:10) is a brief look at how Denzel Washington approached playing the real-life Herman Boone. Good interviews and some behind-the-scenes footage, but it’s short.

After hearing of his upcoming involvement with Costner’s The Postman, Patton’s friends and family tried their best, even staging an intervention, to prevent the fatal misstep, but to no avail.

"Beating the Odds" (6:16) documents the long and arduous journey that Gregory Allen Howard’s script took from conception to production to release. Though this is far from a comprehensive documentary, it is interesting to see how close this movie almost came to not getting made. Thank you, Jerry Bruckheimer.

As for the whole “Director’s Cut” subheading, roughly 7 minutes are added onto the film and some scenes are slightly changed for no particularly good reason. The new disc noticeably expands upon the relationship between Coach Yoast and his daughter, but overall, the extra film material is fairly superfluous. If you are looking for some revelatory new scenes or scene integration, a la Kingdom of Heaven look elsewhere. On a positive note, the cover art is slightly changed, with a new slipcase. Whether it’s better or not is for you to decide. Some trailers are also included, but I don’t really count those as bonus features.

In sum, there seems to be no good reason for this disc to exist, other than its lower price point. I’ve also heard that they are phasing out the old discs for some reason, but I really don’t see what could justify gutting the older disc as they’ve done. I love this film, but the final score reflects the quality of this DVD in light of the old one.

6.8 out of 10