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COACH CARTER

The "real life" underdog story has recently run through ice hockey (Miracle) and football (Friday Night Lights). Now that itís basketball season, itís time for a buzzer beater that is, of course, more about the game of life than about running a low-post pick-and-roll. As the coach, Samuel L. Jackson makes for a solemn yet soulful on-court legend who returns to his alma matter to resuscitate a basketball program in shambles. His first order of business is to make the players sign contracts to maintain a given GPA ó because as Coach C tells us, only six percent of male African-American students go on to college and 50 percent end up in jail or dead. His draconian regime turns the chumps into contenders. Of course, gang violence and drugs are a nuisance, but when the aggregate GPA dips below Coach Cís bar, he shutters the gym, sends the boys to the library, and cancels games. Players bitch, parents protest, and the school turns into a media circus. Through it all, Coach C holds fast to his "better life" mantra. You know how this one plays out. And if the material feels like a well-worn pair of sweats, thatís because director Thomas Carter (no relation) has been in this territory before: he helmed the í70s TV hit The White Shadow. (137 minutes)

BY TOM MEEK

Issue Date: January 14 - 20, 2005
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