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Coach Carter

By Violet LeVoit | Posted 1/12/2005

Former high school basketball star Ken Carter (Samuel L. Jackson) attends an alma mater game and sees how his former team has become a ragtag, hostile mob of angry young men. Sensing good raw material in need of guidance, he becomes their coach, enforcing a tough-love regimen of calisthenics, teamwork, and an academic contract requiring a 2.3 GPA to play. The team starts bringing home trophies, but when their studies lag Carter calls their bluff and cancels the rest of the season. Parents and administrators alike harass Carter to bring back the games, telling him a basketball championship is the only triumph these kids can ever hope for in life. Putatively directed by Thomas Carter (no relation), the real director here is parent company MTV Films, whose executive stench is all over the script. Trying to have it both ways, it packs on the social responsibility lip service while remembering their bottom line is met by good-looking young people showing skin, partying hard, and sleeping around. Jackson is less magnetic than usual, phoning in some nostril-flaring with palpable laxity. The games themselves are sloppily directed, and the team’s victories (and defeats) lack resonance. Forced to do push-ups for the umpteenth time, one team member shouts, “This is bullshit!” Well, yeah.

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