A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Coach Carter has some mature material, including an out-of-wedlock teen pregnancy and a discussion of abortion. There is some strong language, but the movie includes a very worthwhile discussion of the n-word and whether it is appropriate for African-Americans to use a word that would make them angry if used by a white person. The film is frank about the kinds of violence inner-city neighborhoods are subjected to, including shooting. A character is killed. There is some material relating to drug-dealing.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
COACH CARTER (Samuel L. Jackson), a star athlete himself in an inner-city California high school, returns to coach the team. But he's not the typical coach. He insists that each player sign a contract that includes wearing jacket and tie on game days, attending and sitting in the front row of all classes, and maintaining a higher grade point average than the minimum required for participation in sports. Many of the team members are struggling with other pressures, from a pregnant girlfriend (played by pop star Ashanti) to the money and excitement of street crime. Some of the players drop out. But some stay in, and the team begins to win. When Carter discovers that most of the players were not living up to their contracts, he padlocks the gym, refusing to let them play until all of them were caught up with their schoolwork and made good on all of their promises. This draws the ire of school officials and parents alike.
Is it any good?
Based on a true story, this movie compellingly takes the underdog-team-that-comes-from-behind story a step further. Viewers love these kinds of movies because they (1) learn the importance of teamwork, (2) learn the importance of discipline and of respect for themselves and each other, (3) are galvanized by an inspiring leader, or, even better, (4) all of the above. Carter shows his player that the biggest obstacle is their own fear of trying for more than they have. "Starting today, you will act like winners, play like winners, and, most of all, you will be winners." This seems simple and straightforward enough unless you are a sports fan. Or unless you are the kind of person who calls himself a "realist" and thinks these kids are not worth trying to save. Their principal falls into that category. She figures that they are not going to graduate anyway, so the best she can do is give them one great experience they can hold onto for the rest of their lives.
For Carter, this was not about a winning season. It was about a winning life. He wanted his team to qualify for college scholarships. And he wanted them to learn discipline, teamwork, and self-respect. Jackson is terrific, as always, and his talent to mesmerize an audience makes him a great choice to play a coach who can give hope to people who gave up a long time ago. Just the way he says, "Sir," insisting and inspiring his team to call him "Sir" as well, tells you everything about his character and his relationship to the players. The young cast members in Coach Carter are more sure of themselves shooting hoops than they are showing emotion, but Jackson holds the screen so well that he gives them extra focus and presence.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Coach Carter's focus on the use of language and dress to show respect.
Why did Carter's son want to transfer?
Another great discussion could center on the passage quoted from Marianne Williamson (often incorrectly attributed to Nelson Mandela): "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. …" What does this mean to you?
- In theaters: January 14, 2005
- On DVD or streaming: June 21, 2005
- Cast: Ashanti, Channing Tatum, Samuel L. Jackson
- Director: Thomas Carter
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violence, sexual content, language, teen partying and some drug material
For kids who love inspiring stories
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.