"Remember the Titans" is a parable about racial harmony, yoked to the formula of a sports movie. Victories over racism and victories over opposing teams alternate so quickly that sometimes we're not sure if we're cheering for tolerance or touchdowns. Real life is never this simple, but then that's what the movies are for--to improve on life, and give it the illusion of form and purpose.
Denzel Washington and Will Patton are the stars, two football coaches, one black, one white, whose lives are linked for a season, even though neither wants it that way. In 1971, a high school in Alexandria, Va., is integrated, and the board brings in Coach Boone (Washington) as the new head coach, replacing Coach Yoast (Patton), who is expected to become his assistant. Yoast understandably does not want to be demoted in the name of affirmative action. Boone doesn't like it, either: He lost his own job in North Carolina, and "I can't do that to this man." But Alexandria's black residents gather on Boone's lawn to cheer for the first black coach at the newly integrated high school, and Boone realizes he has a responsibility. So does Yoast: His white players say they won't play for a black coach, but Yoast doesn't want them to lose college scholarships, so he swallows his pride and agrees to be Boone's assistant, leading the whites back to practice.
All of this is said to be based on life, and no doubt largely is, but life was perhaps harder and more wounding than the film. "Remember the Titans" is not an activist 1970s picture, but more conciliatory in tone. It is more about football than race relations, and it wants us to leave the theater feeling not angry or motivated, but good.
We do. There are true and touching moments in the film, on top of its undeniable entertainment value. I was moved by a scene near the end where an injured white player, who once said he would not play with blacks, now only wants his black "brother" in the hospital room. And there is a delicate...
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