Dimension Films // 2009 // 102 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 1st, 2010
They turned a tragedy into a triumph.
Based on a true story, Hurricane Season still feels awfully clichéd.
New Orleans, right after Hurricane Katrina rips through. The city is a mess, as are the high school basketball programs since all of the top players have blown town to continue their careers elsewhere. Coach Al Collins (Forest Whitaker, Species) is determined to fight on and recruits an eclectic assortment of leftover players to give New Orleans a team, and possibly a shot at a state title.
What ensues is a lot of the stuff you've seen before in these kinds of movies -- inspirational speeches, a troubled star with a heart of gold, hard practices and bellyaching, a win streak montage following a major turning point in the locker room, a tight final game that hinges on a final, dramatic play -- and one big thing that you haven't.
I am, of course, referring to the Hurricane Katrina wrinkle, which is legitimately cool. There's obviously a lot of dramatic grist to grind when it comes to the disaster and to Hurricane Season's credit, the tragedy isn't milked. Director Tim Story gives us just enough of the hurricane and the after-effects (told primarily through raw footage and media clips) without getting overwrought. In fact, Katrina is set up more as a backdrop to a sports story; the characters certainly react to the apocalyptic destruction, but Story's focus is on the team and what they set out to do.
Which was something legitimately cool and true, as far as I can tell. That's why I'll cut the film a bit of slack for its predictability and cliché-ridden goings-on. If this stuff actually went down, it's not like you can blame the coach and kids for playing to script beautifully.
The stylistic filmmaking conventions are harder to look past, though. The team may have indeed turned around their season in jarring fashion, but I'm pretty sure they didn't play their remaining schedule in short bursts of highlights set to inspiring gospel/hip-hop hybrid music.
On the performance side, there are only two that stand out. Forest Whitaker is fine, as always, though his coaching caricature isn't terribly different from the Gene Hackman hard-ass archetype. As the talented but emotionally unstable star player, Robbie Jones blends both physical acumen and the film's most dramatic scenes. Everyone else is forgettable, and recognizable faces like Bonnie Hunt and Isaiah Washington are wasted.
The DVD is a solid performer, bringing a clean 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and 5.1 surround to the tech department. Extras: 24 (!) deleted scenes.
If it wasn't based on true events, Hurricane Season would be a predictable, faceless ball of sports fluff.
A conflicted verdict. The story is authentically inspiring, but the film
version of the events is a brick.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Dimension Films
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes