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Pride – Movie Review

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“Take Pride for what it is.”

As long as there are underdogs in the sports realm there will never be a shortage of movies in the theater. It’s a genre that continues to pump out film after film. And for the most part that is a good thing. They make us feel good about triumphs and cause something in us to strive for a goal. Though the majority of these films are forged from the football field, lately we have seen Basketball, Golf and Hockey revive our “go get ‘em” spirit. But swimming?

The new movie Pride is a decent watch. It isn’t setting any Olympic records but it doesn’t sink like a rock either. There are things in this film that work and some that don’t. Is it safe to say the good outweighs the bad? For me it was, but it depends on what you are looking for in a film. Pride is inspired by the true story of Jim Ellis (Terrence Howard) who starts a swim team at the Philadelphia Department of Recreation. It’s 1974 and though it was a great time for music, race relations where still a scab on our country as a whole. Mr. Ellis took it upon himself to help a group of underprivileged, urban, youth, and actually a community, take pride in themselves.

That is one of the main things that work. The story. We are not talking about a high school that had a losing record but got together to win the next year. This was a group of young men who had never even been in a pool much less thought about swimming in competition. But they had a coach who believed in them and when the other side of the tracks, the city council and even their families where telling them “no”, they said “yes” through their actions and determination. And by using lesser known actors it brings in the realness of the story. It is like you are looking back into the 70’s on their faces. Relieving a real moment in time. The music helps a lot. The soundtrack works well with the look and style to again bring home the 70’s era. The O’Jays, The Isley Brothers, The Brothers Johnson, James Brown, Aretha Franklin; music that is prominent through the film and makes it classic.

What doesn’t work so well is the casting of Terrence Howard as Coach Ellis. Howard is a fine actor but not believable in the role of coach. He lacks the Denzel Washington strength that most coaches exude. It doesn’t have to be loud and forceful but it is there, right below the surface and Howard does not have it. He seems very weak. Thankfully Bernie Mac is there to salvage the casting dilemma. Mac is brilliant as always and is an element that keeps this film from being a total acting fiasco. The other non working part of Pride is the predictability and need to have every stereotypical character imaginable. The tough kid on the edge, the weak kid wanting to be accepted, the ladies man who just wants the hook up, and the evil city council woman bent on bringing it all down. The story alone works and the writers should have gone with that strength.

Pride is Rated PG for thematic material, language including some racial epithets, and violence. It is safe for the family and a good way to talk to your kids about racial issues. Maybe that will keep them from making the same mistakes our parents and grandparents made. Mistakes that still amaze me to watch. The sheer stupidity of a race and culture in a modern society is baffling to the mind. I give Pride 3 out of 5 breast strokes. Though this film will not be a record breaker at times you will laugh and cry and cheer. With a look at Pride, I’m Matt Mungle
The Mungle (matt@mungleshow.com)(03/21/07)

“Matt is a member of the North Texas Film Critics Association (NTFCA) and hosts the weekly syndicated Indie Rock Radio Show Spin 180. Plus with his wife Cindy they do a weekly radio feature, The Mungles on Movies. For additional reviews and interview clips visit the website www.mungleshow.com”

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