SHOULD WE “REMEMBER THE TITANS” AND FORGET THE CRITICS?

CRITIC DOCTOR EXAMINES: Michæl O’Sullivan (Washington Post), Chris Gore (filmthreat.com), Peter Brunette (film.com), Rob Morlino (matineemag.com), Philip Wuntch (Dallas Morning News), and Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times).
* * * * out of 4 stars (PG)
When I watched “Remember the Titans,” I couldn’t forget those emotional moviegoers who erupted in spontaneous cheers during climatic moments of the film. Is a movie about high school football really worth cheering for?
“Remember the Titans” is a 1971 true story about a Virginia high school forced to hire African-American football coach, Herman Boone (Denzel Washington). Boone replaces a White coach, Bill Yoast (Will Patton), and faces the challenges of a small town poisoned by racism. While Boone’s mission is to coach his team to a championship on the green, he must battle to break racial barriers between Black and White.
Michæl O’Sullivan (Washington Post) said, “Now, I don’t mean to sound like I’m against peace, love and understanding, happy endings, male bonding or tales of uplift and personal redemption, but I get a bad taste in my mouth when I’m force-fed the pap in a broth of swelling strings, stirring martial rat-a-tat-tats and dubious pseudo-sociologizing about the ability of sport to bring races and nations together. I get enough of that propaganda from the Olympics.”
You know what, Michæl? You sound like you’re against peace, love and understanding, happy endings, male bonding, and tales of uplift and personal redemption. You probably hate the Olympics, too! Regardless, you are pseudo-psychoanalyzing this film! What is wrong with a feel-good movie, Michæl? Maybe you just don’t like football.
Chris Gore (filmthreat.com) said, “You’ll notice that the story is predictable and cliché, but who cares? If you’re not a fan, this movie isn’t for you. If you are a fan, you’ll be left choked up, tearful and satisfied.”
“Remember the Titans” is a cliché. But the talent in this film brings the story to life! Football players and coaches are so well acted – you’d think the casting director worked in the school’s chemistry department. Whether you like football or not, you’ll probably like this film if you’re against racism and have human emotions.
But you know what pisses me off? Critics who gripe about “feel-good movies.” I think it is (in some cases) a form of human emotional denial.
Peter Brunette (film.com) said, “I won’t try to pretend that my eyes didn’t well up here and there, when the musical collage soared and all these fine young men were learning the competitive advantages of brotherly love and racial harmony. But I didn’t believe the movie, or my tears, for a second.”
Denial! Let’s psychoanalyze Peter. He watches the film, he’s moved and teardrops trickle down his cheek and land in the popcorn bag on his lap. Peter either: 1) Found something in that story that moved his heart because he “believed” what he saw on film; or 2) Peter forgot to add salt and butter to his popcorn, so had to add something! Give me a break.
Rob Morlino (matineemag.com) got it right: “Some people are going to call ‘Remember the Titans’ a ‘feel-good movie,’ which is most often a derogatory label given to lousy Robin Williams films. It’s appropriate here, but only in that it makes the audience feel good without cheating them. This is a story that’s about constant conflict, what it takes to rise above it and what kind of people have the courage to. It’s also full of laughs, a few surprise emotional punches, and genuine human emotion.”
Now that’s a genuine opinion! However, we still have critics who are in human emotional denial.
Philip Wuntch (Dallas Morning News) said, “While watching the film, you’ll occasionally feel like cheering. But it’s a forced feeling, as if anyone who doesn’t cheer will have to write an essay on good citizenship.”
Philip? You need to write an essay entitled: “How to Enjoy Feel-Good Movies and Overcome Human Emotional Denial.” Send it to me for examination and I’ll check up on you from time to time.
Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) sums the movie up best: “‘Remember the Titans’ has the outer form of a brave statement about the races in America, but the soul of a sports movie in which everything is settled by the obligatory last play in the last seconds of the championship game. Whether the Titans win or lose has nothing to do with the season they have played and what they were trying to prove. But it has everything to do with the movie’s sleight of hand, in which we cheer the closing touchdown as if it is a victory over racism.”
“Remember the Titans” is a four star “feel-good movie” and yes – my emotional buttons got pushed. Whether it was because of the uniting of the races or the race for the championship – I will not forget to “Remember the Titans.”
–CRITIC DOCTOR




Posted on October 16, 2000 in Features by
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