Judge Ryan Keefer thought it was really cool when Harry Hamlin fought Medusa, the Kraken and...wait, wrong titans.
They came together when their classmates and loved ones would not.
From a box office point of view, Remember the Titans is remembered for a couple of things; aside from the film's surprising $115 million box office take, the film was also a dramatic turn for producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who had previously been behind such loud and yet dramatically empty films like Con Air and Days of Thunder. So now that it's available on Blu-ray disc, does Remember the Titans work technically and yet live up to the hype?
Facts of the Case
Gregory Allen Howard (Ali) wrote a screenplay surrounding the events of T.C. Williams High School in 1971, which was directed by Boaz Yakin (Uptown Girls). In it, Coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington, The Hurricane) has moved from North Carolina to become a football coach in Virginia. However in the middle of this process, he manages to displace a well-established, successful white coach in Bill Yoast (Will Patton, Armageddon). Aside from this personnel move, he also decided to integrate the school's football team, (T.C. was part of an already controversial forced busing movement), which put an increasingly tense city on edge, due to a racial shooting during that period. So Boone deals with quite a wide variety of issues in and out of school in order to get a team on the field.
What little I knew about T.C. Williams comes from my times going to football games at rival schools. They were a juggernaut of athletic prowess and blew away the one and only time that my team had a chance at football glory when I went to high school. Simply put, they were the New York Yankees of high school football growing up in my area, winning several high school football championships. Upon further review and using the context of time, T.C. Williams had been through a lot of trials and tests within recent history. And for Boone and Yoast to achieve what they did in their first year as partners of the football team is something to behold. The legacy that they have left, when it comes to achieving racial harmony (or the closest thing to it) in their five years will last long after they've disappeared.
From a performance perspective, Washington and Patton do what's required of them, not to say that it's average work of a two-time Oscar winner like Washington, but I wasn't wowed by the grown ups in the film. But whoever did the casting for this film has got to pat themselves on the back. Consider that in smaller supporting roles, you've got Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson), Kate Bosworth (Superman Returns), Donald Faison (Scrubs), Wood Harris (The Wire) and in the lovable but seemingly loser role, Ethan Suplee (My Name is Earl) who seemed to find a bit of a breakout role in Louie Lastik. From a style and tone point of view, Yakin makes the story just a little too warm, too fuzzy and too convenient for my tastes. The kids were probably more exposed to a lot of racial tension from members of both races, and most of those scenes seemed to have been glossed over. Everyone seems to understand where the story goes, and it's because of that that the film just doesn't come off as compelling.
When it comes to Blu-ray discs, Disney continues to impress with outstanding video quality, and this MPEG-4 encoded 2.35:1 transfer looks great. Considering that we're coming up on the film's seventh anniversary, a lot of depth and detail can be discerned when watching this Blu-ray disc. Black levels are solid and provide an excellent contrast, and the film looks great throughout. The PCM soundtrack is just as pleasing, with a lot of panning and surround effects, and low end presence for most of the feature (the score that plays during the title menus is impressive and a sign of what's to come). It was quite enjoyable.
From an extras point of view, I'm presuming that what's here is ported over from the first edition of the film, and not the slightly extended director's cut that was recently released. There are not one, but two commentaries for the film from both production and historical standpoints. The first is with Howard, Yakin and Bruckheimer. With three people, no one thought to record these people together? Anyway, Howard provides the historical background and some more detail on some of the players. Yakin provides the occasional background with certain style decisions in the film, and just generally sounds a lot like Billy Crystal. Bruckheimer talks about the production and doesn't really stray. It's not a bad track but could have been better. The second with Boone and Yoast is a little more laidback and easygoing, and both of them talk about their lives before meeting each other, and discuss the wonder of being on a movie set. There may be some more that could be coaxed from them, but this track was pleasant. Following that are a half dozen deleted and extended scenes that don't add too much to the film, followed by a twenty minute look at the film and real-life events with football great, Lynn Swann. The cast and crew share their thoughts on the story and the film, the actors talk about the football camp and the coaches spend some time discussing how it was seeing their lives transformed on film. Speaking of which, a separate, smaller featurette on Washington taking on Boone in film is next, along with the story of getting the film made, and save from some trailers and a movie showcase that shows off some of the scenes in their optimum technical glory, that pretty much does it.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I've said it before, most recently with our review of The Hurricane (Blu-ray), but the trouble with films interpreting real-life events is that some of the dramatic license gets a little annoying. When it came to the games, in real life, T.C. mowed through the competition, including the championship game, so much so that only one team got within two touchdowns of them during that magical year. Second, and perhaps a little bit unfairly, was the role that Yoast's daughter Sheryl (a very young and pre-indestructible Hayden Panettiere from Heroes) was perceived with in the film. She seemed to be a very tiny, very blonde antagonist who resisted the coaching change, and aside from being not as involved with the team as she was portrayed, she unfortunately died from a heart ailment before the film was realized (her death was not revealed in the film's end credits). If I was Bill Yoast and I had raw feelings about the way the film turned out, that's exactly where I'd lay my animosity.
One more thing from the "truth police," and then I'm out; I will fully admit that Virginia certainly loves their high school football, and not being too familiar with the wilds of Alexandria in that area, but knowing how Alexandria looks now, the thinking that Alexandria is a "town" when it's a hop, skip and a jump from the Nation's capital and not making it out to be in the middle of nowhere might have been another thing that would have made me buy a little more into the drama that was unfolding.
The story is a compelling and uplifting one, and despite some of the flourishes that the cast and crew put into it, the performances help make the whole thing palatable. The fact that the film looks and sounds excellent is a nice perk to the overall experience. If you haven't watched it before, then do yourself a favor and check it out. If you already have the standard version, the upgrade is probably well worth the time.
A hearty not guilty for all, despite the fact that they caused my guys such heartache back in the day.
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Scales of Justice
• Feature Audio Commentary with Director Boaz Yakin, Producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Writer Gregory Allen Howard
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