* (out of 5)
March 23, 2007
Terrence Howard as JIM ELLIS
Bernie Mac as ELSTON
Kimberly Elise as SUE DAVIS
Tom Arnold as BINK
Brandon Fobbs as PUDDIN HEAD
Alphonso McAuley as WALT
Regine Nehy as WILLIE
Nate Parker as HAKIM
Studio: Lion’s Gate
Directed by: Sunu Gonera
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
In the past twenty or so years, inspirational sports movies have become a genre of their own. Like a male-oriented romantic comedy, these movies have a very specific underdog formula that, if followed well, makes an exciting film.
However, the key to making a good inspirational sports movie is the sport itself. Football works great. It was pioneered with “Remember the Titans,” but every couple years, there’s one or more good ones to hit the screens. Recent examples include “Invincible,” “Gridiron Gang” and “We Are Marshall.”
Other sports can work as well. Great baseball films include “Field of Dreams,” “Major League” and “The Natural.” Even basketball works with “Glory Road” and “Hoosiers.”
Hollywood is floating a new sport out there for inspirational movies – swimming. Yes, you heard correctly: swimming.
Good god, what’s next? Volleyball?
“Pride” tells the somewhat true story of a swim coach named Jim Ellis (Terrence Howard) who turns a rag-tag group of inner-city punks into a competing swim team in 1970s Philadelphia. Ellis is put in charge of shutting down a public recreation center, and his inspirational swim team not only helped keep its doors open but also gave kids hope for the future.
Over the past few years, I’ve been getting sick of the “based on a true story” and “inspired by true events” label. Almost inevitably, the real-life story is only slightly similar to the reel-life one. In this case, there’s a lot of fabrication of events. While Ellis was – and is – a great inspiration, he didn’t take a group of kids that barely knew how to swim and transformed them in a matter of weeks.
This wouldn’t be that big of a deal for me if the movie didn’t tie racial issues so tightly to this plot. With the exception of Ellis’s college swim coach in the opening scene, every single white person in the movie is portrayed as a flaming racist. The rival swim teams are one step off the white man’s plantation, and they are shown to only be able to win by cheating.
Yes, the movie pushes the right buttons. If you can get past the racism in the film itself, it can be inspirational, but I can’t. I believe that racism cuts both ways, and it’s just as bad to beat up on white people as it is to beat up on black people.
At the end of the film, real video clips of Ellis coaching is shown. Funny enough, in the background, you see a fully integrated group of swimmers – black, white, Hispanic, Asian. However, in the movie, the entire team is black. All major characters are black, with the exception of the racist white swim coach played by Tom Arnold.
“Pride” is meant to be a racially unifying film. However, with such a stubborn and unbending black-versus-white attitude, it comes across as racist as the lily white swim team that serves as the villains in the film.