Movie plot formulas are not always bad things. Movies with a specific formula always get made for a reason, and that’s simply because people go see these films time over and time. The inspirational sport film formula is one of the most popular today. But any formula can be tweaked a little to get surprising results. It’s okay to start with a familiar movie plot formula, but if you want your movie to rise above all the other movies like it, you have to deviate from that formula just a little bit. Now the question here is whether Coach Carter would be just another inspirational sports movie or a film that starts with that formula and tweaks it enough to stand out?
Coach Carter is based on a true story that took place in Richmond, California in 1999. Hardworking store owner Ken Carter (Samuel L. Jackson) is hired as the coach of troubled Richmond High School’s basketball team, the Oilers. Coach Carter immediately exhibits himself to his players as someone quite unlike the coaches they are used to, handing out exhaustive exercising punishments for misbehavior and putting a real interest in their education when no one else does in their lower-class neighborhood. Soon Carter insists that the teenage boys, who have no dreams of college and don’t take their education seriously, raise their grades to at least a C+ average. When they fail to do just that, Carter locks up the gym and forces them to forfeit games just as their season’s winning streak is getting into high gear. This leads to an uproar over Carter’s decision by the faculty and parents threaten his position at the school, even as the players begin to realize they are capable of doing much more with their lives than they originally thought.
This film is fairly predictable. All of your standard characters and outlined storylines common to every other inspirational sports film out there, are all here as well. But once you really dig deep into the film you will find that the main story of this film, centering on the basketball gym lockout and subsequent consequences, is quite unique and compelling to watch on screen. In this film, and real life of course, Coach Carter put education over basketball. This film is not really about the basketball played on the court, but about the people and relationships between them off the court and their future as human beings. Director, Thomas Carter, really balances the basketball scenes and the non-basketball scenes well, with the exception of the “final big game” which seems to last a little longer than it should have.
But really makes this film work is the performance of Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson owns this role. The rest of the cast are well-suited for their roles as well, but they are just supporting characters to Jackson. It helps that the real-life Ken Carter and his story is interesting. At the same time, though, it also hurts the film at times as well. The character of Ken Carter is developed so much and demands so much of the screen time, that all of the other characters seem shallow in comparisons. It’s here where the “inspirational sports” formula is spotlighted more than in the other aspects of the film.
Without Samuel L. Jackson, though, Coach Carter probably would have been a lesser film. Despite this film looking like your typical inspirational sports film, there is actually a very unique and intriguing story that is told here. It has a good message, and it doesn’t hurt that mostly all the events in this film took place. Of course, Coach Carter can’t completely remove itself from its formula, but there is not as much basketball in this film as you would expect. In the end, Coach Carter is a solid film that is definitely above-average. It’s not the best film in this genre, but it’s certainly entertaining and enlightening at the same time.
The video is presented in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode at the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen color ratio, which is enhanced for 16:9 TVs of course. The video transfer is great. There is hardly any noticable graininess, and the colors all look natural looking. Nothing that pops out at you, but still great for this film. No major problems at all.
The audio included is available in either English TrueHD 5.1 sound, English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound, or French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound. There are subtitles available in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese as well. The dialouge and music come out loud and clear, but this film really doesn’t need high-definition sound. No major problems, though.
“Writing Coach Carter: The Two Man Game” Featurette –
This runs 8 minutes and features the screenwriters talking about bringing this real story to the big screen. Decent enough.
“Coach Carter: Making the Cut” Featurette –
This runs 18 minutes and it features more background/”making of” material about/from this film. Standard stuff here.
Found on Standard Edition As Well…
“Coach Carter: The Man Behind the Movie” Featurette –
This runs 20 minutes and it’s all about the real Ken Carter, his family, and players. We hear from Sam Jackson, producer Mike Tollin, Ken Carter, and several of his old players as talk about the frustration, inspiration and controversy that arrived with the new coach. Definitely interesting to watch.
“Fast Break at Richmond High” Featurette –
This runs 11 minutes and it’s all about how the young actors learned to play basketball better and how the filmmakers shot action in the games. This does a pretty good job of breaking down this process.
Deleted Scenes –
There are 6 deleted scenes that didn’t make the final cut of the film and they total 20 minutes. Nothing really “must-see”, though.
“Hope” Music Video –
This is a music video for “Hope” by Twista w/ Faith Evans from the film.
Coach Carter is more concerned with the story and characters than with the sport of basketball. On the surface, this is just another inspirational sports film. But thanks to a strong underneath story and the performance of Samuel L. Jackson, this film is above-average in its genre. Everyone should at least give this a rental, because it’s highly entertaining. Casual fans of this genre will probably enjoy this enough to warrant a purchase.
As for the difference between this Blu-ray version and the standard definition version, the Blu-Ray version has two exclusive featurettes. But the two featurettes found on both versions are far more intriguing than the two which are only on the Blu-ray version. Besides that and slightly improved audio and video, there is no difference. Really that is not worth the upgrade. Stick with the standard DVD version of this film, if you already have it. Go Blu-ray only if you are a super fan of this film and want to pay a little more with very little to show for it.
Paramount Home Entertainment presents Coach Carter. Directed by Thomas Carter. Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Rob Brown, Robert Ri’chard, Ashanti, Rick Gonzalez, Channing Tatum, Antwon Tanner, Sidney Faison, and Texas Battle. Written by Mark Schwahn and John Gatins. Running time: 130 minutes. Rated PG-13. Released on DVD: December 16, 2008. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: paramount, Samuel L. Jackson