A lot or a little?
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Remember the Titans tells the inspirational true story about the struggles and victories of a newly-integrated high school football team in 1971 Alexandria, Virginia. As such, the film reflects the divisive nature of the times -- the film begins with a near-riot scene between African-Americans and whites on the street separated by the police as bottles and windows break. The racial tensions of the town -- segregation in restaurants, racial slurs, fist fights in the high school -- are shown to highlight the backdrop in which the Titans must learn to get along and play together as a team. The movie includes racist comments and situations and some locker room insults. A major character is critically injured in a car accident. When the boys refer to a long-haired teammate as a "fruitcake," he responds by kissing one of them on the mouth. There are some scuffles and threats of more serious violence. Ultimately, Remember the Titans is a deeply moving film about the courage of individuals and the power of sports to transcend perceived and ingrained differences.
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What's the story?
It's important to know for REMEMBER THE TITANS that it wasn't until 1971, 17 years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, that black students came to T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va. Every other team in that football-loving district was still segregated. But the white T.C. Williams players were confronted with not only a whole new set of black players, but a black coach, Herman Boone (played here by Denzel Washington). In a matter of a few weeks, Boone has to make them into a team -- and it has to be a winning team, because the school board is looking for any reason to fire him so they can reinstate Coach Yoast (Will Patton), now demoted to assistant. Boone takes the boys to a college near Gettysburg for training. It's impossible to say which is the tougher workout for the team -- the physical challenges of drills and practices or the emotional challenge of overcoming a lifetime of anger and prejudice. Like all great coaches, Boone and Yoast teach the team that they have it within themselves to be great as well. And they realize that they get as much from the boys as the boys get from them.
Is it any good?
This movie about the real-life integration of a Virginia high school football team teeters on the brink of cliché and stereotype but manages to come down on the side of archetype. That's thanks to a sure script, solid direction, and another sensational performance by Denzel Washington. Remember the Titans is the kind of movie that begins with all the characters attending a funeral under a bright autumn sun and then takes us back to where it all began. This is the kind of movie in which people say things like, "Is this even about football anymore or is it just about you?" and where the supreme bonding moment is singing Motown songs together. In other words, no surprises here. If everyone hadn't achieved a sense of brotherhood that transcended race and it hadn't all turned out pretty well, Disney would not have made a movie about it. But that just leaves us free to enjoy the movie's appealing characters and special moments. And that's all right. There is a reason for the classic structure of the sports movie -- we like to watch raw recruits learn honor and loyalty out there on the field when it's done right, and here it is done very nicely.
Washington is, as ever, that rarest of pleasures, equally an actor and a movie star. His power to mesmerize and inspire as a performer works perfectly with his role as a coach who can capture the attention and loyalty of these teen boys. Boone is so secure in himself that he can devote all of his energy to the team, so he inspires them by example.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the arguments Boone and Yoast have about how to motivate the team in Remember the Titans. Which one inspired the players to do their best, and how did he do it?
How have times changed since 1971? What remains the same? Is society more color-blind now?
Why are so many sports movies inspiring? What are some of your other favorites?
- In theaters: September 29, 2000
- On DVD or streaming: March 14, 2006
- Cast: Denzel Washington, Donald Faison, Will Patton
- Director: Boaz Yakin
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, History
- Character strengths: Empathy, Integrity, Teamwork
- Run time: 113 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some violence, mild language, and a same-sex kiss
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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