Opening 7 Apr 2005
Finally, a sports film where winning isn’t everything! Coach Carter is based in part on the real-life story of controversial basketball coach Ken Carter, who ruffled a lot of feathers in the poor, drug-riddled community of Richmond, California, when he benched his entire undefeated team in 1999 for the poor academic performance of a few team members. In the film, Carter (played superbly by Samuel L. Jackson), a successful, college-educated Richmond native, agrees to take over coaching the poorly-disciplined Richmond Oilers in hopes that he can teach the kids to both play and study. He makes them all sign contracts agreeing to maintain at least a 2.3 grade point average and attend all of their classes. But though the kids take basketball practice seriously, they don’t make academics a priority, something echoed by their parents and the school administration. Carter takes them all on in hopes that he can show the kids that winning games doesn’t always translate into winning in life.
Although Coach Carter flirts with clichés and echoes other discipline-saves-inner-city-kids films such as Lean on Me and Stand and Deliver, the message that getting an education is more important than winning games is one well-worth repeating. Carter is produced by MTV Films and features a hip soundtrack and many bright young stars, including Rob Brown (Finding Forrester) and singer Ashanti, which hopefully make it appealing to teenagers who might identify with the characters. The film is long, but the stories of the different team members, as well as Carter himself, are interesting. In this age of sports stars being the ultimate idols, encouraging kids to live by Coach Carter’s playbook can’t hurt. (Kirsten Greco)