- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Paramount
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
As a kid growing up in the poor town of Richmond, Virgina, Ken Carter (Jackson) made the most of his talent as a high school basketball star by taking advantage of opportunities he otherwise wouldn't have. It's been 35 years since his glory days, and the city is even more worse off than before. The economy is on a gradual decline and the local basketball team is the laughing stock of the conference. When he's offered the chance to turn things around, however, Ken Carter becomes Coach Carter and unleashes a ruthless training regiment that demands hard work and respect from every player on the team. He even goes so far as to promise that they will win if they follow his lead, but in order to reap the benefits on the court, they also have to sign a contract declaring their academic commitment off the court as well.
When he discovers that the players aren’t living up to their end of the deal in the classroom, Carter promptly padlocks the gym and cancels the weekly games until the entire team can meet his educational standards. Much to the objection of the entire community – who look at the players like hometown heroes – Carter’s perseverance in teaching valuable life lessons turns out to be much more valuable than a championship. In fact, most of these guys are decent ball players, but are all dealing with some pretty adult issues as young men. Kenyon (Rob Brown) feels like he’s being held back by his pregnant girlfriend Kyra (Ashanti), Timo (Rick Gonzalez) is living the dangerous life alongside his drug-dealing cousin, and Ken’s own son, Damien (Robert Ri’chard), just wants to play for his dad, even if it means leaving the better education that private school St. Francis offers across the tracks.
Ultimately, Coach Carter was the one man that saved these guys from becoming another statistic. In a school system that graduates less than 50 percents of its students annually, and where about one student per classroom goes on to secondary education, every senior on the team graduated at the end of year. Six of those seniors were college-bound that following summer, with five of them receiving basketball scholarships to schools all across California. “Coach Carter” isn’t flawless by any means, but thanks to a solid performance from Samuel L. Jackson and some entertaining basketball action sprinkled throughout, the movie earns its place alongside more recent sports films like “Friday Night Lights” as a must-have for any fan of classics like “Hoosiers,” “Major League” and “Rudy.”
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
The original DVD for “Coach Carter” wasn’t all that spectacular, and though Paramount has tried to amend the situation by including a few more extras on the Blu-ray edition, it’s still a pretty lackluster release. The best of the bunch is the featurette on Ken Carter (“The Man Behind the Movie”), which uses interviews from the coach and his former players to discuss the similarities between the film and the real events, while the brand new “Making the Cut” finally brings a proper making-of featurette into the mix. Also included is a short featurette on the two screenwriters of the film (“Writing Coach Carter”), a shallow behind-the-scenes look at choreographing the film’s basketball sequences (“Fast Break of Richmond High”), a handful of deleted scenes, and a music video. This might have been captivating stuff back in 2005, but we expect more with our movies these days.