Coach Carter

It's fun to watch winners.

I enjoy glory stories about young athletes beating the odds because of their talent and the tidal force of a strong-headed coach. The 1999 Richmond High School (California) Oilers are celebrated in Coach Carter, and with Samuel L. Jackson (Who else?) as the no nonsense coach with the revolutionary idea that his underprivileged team should carry a 2.3 average, wear ties to games, and adhere to a contract about all these conditions. The carrot, besides playing ball, is that they might go to college because of the student-athlete profile. The reality is that such an arc will lead to the NCAA and maybe the NBA.

As in last year's Miracle about Olympic hockey and Friday Night Lights about high school football, the coach is charismatic, uncompromising, and based on a real person. His confession that he failed because he came to teach boys how to play basketball and ended with students who became men is close to the ameliorative spirit of the entire film.

Although the formula is secure in the land of sports cliches, having attractive young people and a bankable tough guy actor play the lead parts results in an enjoyable experience. The excitement is infectious, the values about hard work and integrity far more convincing than all the bromides thrown at us by neocons in the last election.

Coach Carter has been played countless times in films but is a pleasant experience if the hackneyed hokum such as the crusty coach and stereotyped players (the surly white Eminem look-a-like, the African American with the pregnant girlfriend, the Latino with drug connections and attitude, to name a few) is handled with care, as it is here. It's fun to watch winners even if they can't win.