Proof that smart films don't have to be complicated and that simple doesn't always mean stupid, Remember The Titans isn't afraid to handle chunky, powerful issues in a chunky, powerful way. With zero time for grey areas, it sees the world - - pardon the pun - - in strictly black and white, good and bad terms. But that just adds to the force with which this true-story inspired movie belts home its key arguments: people can work together regardless of colour, deep down everyone wants to do the right thing and individuals can and do shape society for the better.
It may teeter along the edge of the abyss of sentimentality, but Titans is well balanced by Denzel Washington and Will Patton's acting prowess. Washington is one of the few actors around capable of wringing real meaning from scripter Gregory Allen Howard's occasionally tortured speechifying while still making Boone a funny, charismatic and, perhaps most difficult of all in this context, believably flawed man.
But almost as much credit must go to Patton. The wise Southern gentleman coach learning to appreciate new ways and overcome the prejudices of his town is a cliché waiting to happen, but Patton sidesteps it with a quiet, intelligent turn. While Washington's making the words he's given work their socks off, Patton's acting with his eyes and his body, letting audiences read more into Yoast's actions and character than the script allows. In a career scarred by hero's-best-buddy roles in the likes Of Gone In 60 Seconds and Armageddon, it's good to be reminded just what he's capable of.
With support from a solid group of young and not-so-young-looking kids, they crank out an amusing, hugely enjoyable and occasionally incredibly moving tale. Throw into the mix some crackling sports action and you've got the kind of clear-eyed crowdpleaser that Hollywood churned out with abandon in the '40s but largely seems to have lost the knack for these days.
And don't worry if the intricacies of America's favourite game escape you. Boaz Yakin's direction reduces the bits of games we actually see down to one-on-one confrontations with clear goals (this guy has to throw the ball to that guy before the very big guy on the other team turns him into one big strawberry jam-filled pancake).
As cunning have-your-cake-and-eat-it tactics go, it's a doozy. Structured like this, a British audience's inability to tell a touchdown from a hoe down shouldn't affect their enjoyment any more than knowing diddly-squat about Roman battle tactics would ruin Gladiator.