COACH CARTER (Blu-ray Edition)
Paramount Pictures | 2005 | 136 mins | Rated PG-13 | Dec 16, 2008
Written by David Hillyer
January 5, 2009
Based on a true story, Coach Carter is the story of an inner city basketball coach fighting for the future of his players. Carter (played by Samuel L. Jackson) is one of the very few success stories to come from California's Richmond High School where less than 50% of the student-athletes graduate and only a handful of them go on to college.
The real story made national news due to Carter's unconventional approach to make sure his players knew in the term “student/athlete”, the student comes first. His team was undefeated and looking to make a run for the state championship when he got their classroom reports. He then locked up the gym and proceeded to cancel all practice and games until the athletes decided to be students.
After movies like Rudy, Hoosiers, and others did so well in theaters and on DVD, every production company went on a hunt for any underdog and come-from-behind story they could find and before long we got a string of inspirational sports movies. Many were good (“Invincible”, “The Rookie”) – while others were quickly forgotten (“The Miracle Match”). The reality is most people enjoy a good underdog story. It seems like every week there is another Olympic style overcoming adversity story on ESPN... and we eat it up.
I am one of those people. I have a large library of sports DVD's from movies to actual games. I love a thrilling story – from a 40 year old baseball rookie to the USA men's soccer team beating powerhouse Brazil. I connect with all of them and even though I may never watch them again, there is just something about owning such tales... I suppose its because we hope we are capable of such glory... or perhaps a little of theirs will rub off onto us.
Coach Carter certainly fits into my library, but not so much for the sports. Carter was a man who stood up for what he believed. Sports are merely a vehicle for these kids. It can teach them about life and teamwork and discipline, but more importantly it can be used to take them someplace they never dared to dream... to college and a better life where they have great impact on the lives around them.
I was shocked to find in Coach Carter a paraphrase of one of my favorite quotes of all time. It was written by Marianne Williamson in her book “Return to Love”.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
That was and is the impact of Coach Carter the movie, and the man. We could only hope to be as steadfast and impactful with our lives.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.
And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give
other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.”
(from "Return to Love" by Marianne Williamson)
Directly by Thomas Carter, the story of the Richmond High School basketball team is rich and rewarding. Despite some fairly big storytelling liberties taken with the actual story, the point of Coach Carter is intact and is certainly something with which anyone can identify. Yes, there are abundant clichés in this film. It's sports and inner city youth, two of the most filmed topics in recent history. But the storytelling and character development in Coach Carter is paced well and the sports sequences are almost believable. Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content, language, teen partying and some drug material, Coach Carter comes in at 2 hours 16 minutes.
Coach Carter on Blu-Ray has a very muted color pallet. I suspect this was a choice by the cinematographer to further communicate the bleak and hopeless environment. While that certainly adds to the feel of the movie, I tend to like my Blu-Ray films to be sharp and crisp with ample color to immerse me in the movie. I want to experience it, not just watch it. The 2.39:1, 1080p presentation for Coach Carter is of course much more detailed on Blu-ray than its DVD counterpart, but some scenes are still soft and less than what they should be.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround sound is fairly minimal but this isn’t really an action movie. It's more about life... and while the movie does has some intense scenes with gunshots and basketball games, it is much more heavy on dialog. Dialog is crisp and localized predominantly in the center channel with very little going on in the surround channels. Audio is available in English, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. There are also English, Spanish, French and Portuguese subtitles.
Coach Carter comes with a fairly good set of extras to enjoy though most are in standard definition.
Coach Carter: The Man Behind the Movie (19 min. SD) interviews the real Coach Carter about his background and life. It's really interesting to hear from the players about the events portrayed in the movie. Fast Break at Richmond High (11 min. SD) is about the staging of the movie basketball games. There's nothing really new here, but it is interesting to see how they coached the kids (many of them actors, not athletes). Writing Coach Carter (8 min. SD) interviews the two writers of the film. Coach Carter: Making the Cut (18 min. SD) is a standard production piece about the process of making the film.
All of the above are in standard definition, which is a big disappointment, but it was filmed over 4 years ago when HD cameras were not very common. Additionally there are 6 deleted scenes (in SD), a music video called “Hope” by Twista and Faith Evans (in SD), and the original theatrical trailer (the only HD extra).
Coach Carter isn't a movie I normally would have picked up. I'm not a basketball fan and didn't grow up in a large city with a lot of ethnic diversity. But I was asked to review this movie and I'm glad I did. I expected the usual 'get out of the ghetto' story, but what I found was new and profound. Coach Carter is someone I wish I had in my life while I was growing up. I would not have liked him at the time, but his impact on my life down the road would have been huge.