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It’s 1971 and as race threatens to tear the Virginia city of Alexandria apart, two schools—one black, one white—are pushed together. The high school football team, the Titans, becomes the focal point for the friction when coach Bill Yoast (Will Patton) is replaced by a black man, Herman Boone (Denzel Washington), despite a 15-season winning streak. Gradually the two men overcome their differences and build a united team that serves as an example to the wider community.

Remember the Titans is the kind of story that would have you guffawing at the screenwriter’s naivety if it wasn’t for the fact that its all true. The real Titans beat prejudice along with the opposition, and are still held up as an example by the people of Alexandria.

It’s always tough for an actor to play a real person, especially if they’re a regular Joe rather than a Malcolm X-type legend. But Washington grabs the camera by the throat as coach Boone, ably assisted by a script that hands him some big speeches straight from the Dead Poets Society playbook. He’s well supported by Will Patton as Yoast, the mild mannered gentleman who sets aside his own ego for the greater good, and an impressive young cast as the Titans. Wood Harris stands out as Julius “Big Ju” Campbell, whose friendship with team captain Gerry Bertier (Ryan Hurst) cements the integration.

The DVD release gives us a welcome chance to meet the real Boone. He and Yoast appear for the ‘Making Of’ featurettes and bicker like the original odd couple. A loveably cantankerous old codger, Boone’s zest for the game seems undimmed. Watch closely and you’ll even spot him wandering the set giving extras ad-hoc tuition. Several members of the Titans also show up to endorse the film’s authenticity and the back story is fully fleshed out by the audio commentary in which the producer, director and writer concentrate more on the real life events than the making of the movie.

The film itself is a watchable yarn from the brothers-in-arms mould. When the black and white players in the team first meet they square off like two opposing armies, and the military metaphor is (over)played for all it’s worth—even kettle drums present and correct in the score. Denzel is the drill instructor, taking his boys to boot camp, kitting them out with uniforms and helmets and pushing them to the brink of exhaustion on the training ground. But although war movie-monger Jerry Bruckheimer’s name is on the production credits, this is very much a Disney film. Remember the Titans sits firmly in the family fun category, with the requisite quota of precocious children and a soundtrack so uplifting it could levitate and elephant.

With the feelgood factory in control, the story gets more than a spoonful of sugar. There’s a Wonder Years-style tweeness to proceedings, which is a shame because with a harder edge a story this good, this true, could easily have been taken to the next level. Still, it would be churlish to harp on about what Titans is not. It’s huge heart is in the right place and its good to see an inspirational story tackle sticky issues like bigotry and racism. The movie may not be unforgettable, but you’ll always remember the Titans’ tale.
Stuart Whitmore

Published September 20, 2001

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You can buy it HERE - next day delivery within Australia




CAST: Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Donald Faison, Nicole Ari Parker, Wood Harris, Ryan Hurst

DIRECTOR: Boaz Yakin

RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: August 15, 2001 (Rental Only)

SPECIAL FEATURES: Widescreen; Audio Commentary (director, producer, screenwriter); Deleted scenes; Theatrical Trailer; 3 Making-of Featurettes. Languages: English, Czech, Hungarian, French. Subtitles: English, French, Hungarian, Polish, Russian, Dutch, Slovakian, Arabic, English for the hard of hearing

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