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Coach Carter

Tough Love

I'm in conflict. A part of me hates saccharine feel-good movies with their happy endings, inspirational stories, moving soliloquies and overwrought soundtracks. They are so completely unrealistic it's disgusting. On the other hand, I'm a total sucker for them: I cry; I'm moved; I cheer for the underdogs; I download the soundtrack etc. In fact, I cried -- ahem, I mean teared up -- three times during Coach Carter.

Samuel L. Jackson portrays Coach Ken Carter, an actual athletic coach in Richmond, CA on which this movie is based. Coach Carter is much like a previous movie about a tough-as-nails public school employee who rehabilitates students (read: juvenile delinquents), Lean on Me (I cried during that one too but I was about five, so it doesn't count), but differs in that it was cut for the next MTV generation replete with a Hip Hop-heavy soundtrack and flashy montages.

Here Carter is a former basketball star at a high school in Richmond, shown as a bleak urbane landscape with all the typical pitfalls, who returns in order to make a difference by taking on the thankless position of basketball coach. His 'team' consists of a group of hapless punks who get winded after running a lap. But, of course, as the story goes -- he turns them around and transforms them from boys into respectable men.

To director Thomas Carter's (Save the Last Dance, Swing Kids, "Miami Vice") credit, this movie could have been a lot more insipid. Plus, there was actually a funny scene or two. In one particular scene, the guys sneak off to a raging house party only to be discovered in compromising positions (predictably) by not only the coach but also by the parents of the girl who was hosting. Ouch.

Furthermore, the intense game scenes were tension-filled and always (predictably) went down to the wire. Which, whether you expected it or not, made you sit at the edge of your seat rooting for the underdogs to win.

While Coach Carter is a great, inspiring movie (if you're in high school), it's the kind of flick you rent on a slow Friday night rather than pay ten bucks to see. Besides, it's always better to cry your eyes out in private.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5