The One-Line Summary: Former star high school basketball player Ken Carter (Samuel L. Jackson) takes over as head coach at Richmond, putting his players through rigorous training methods that include contracts to maintaining minimum grade point averages, dress codes, and good ethical behavior, which proves effective as the team goes undefeated, but when Carter learns many of the students have been skipping classes, forces a lockout and refuses to coach until the boys resume their studies.
The Two-Line Blurb: Based on the real life coach of the same name and school who made headlines when he shut down his winning team for poor academic performance, Coach Carter is another in a long line of inspirational sports films where an unorthodox leader brings change to the directionless players. It succeeds mostly from the excellent casting and Jackson’s earnest, heartfelt performance, but can’t overcome the trappings of the genre and fails to really bring anything new to the game.
The Three-Line Set-up: The team is the usual cast of misfits and rebels, with a few who have very troubled lives outside of school, including those with families, girlfriends and drugs. Carter has high standards for his players, and after the lock down, many are angered along with the parents and much of the school board. Carter threatens to quit if his terms are not met, requiring students to return to class, maintaining that an education is truly the best weapon for helping these kids better their lives. After much debating, the board votes to break the lockout, forcing Carter out.
The Four-Line Moment: Carter collects his things and passes by the gymnasium where he finds all of his players sitting behind desks with their teachers circling them. They side with their mentor and commit themselves to his rules, declaring that the board may break the lockout but they can’t make them play. Then, Timo Cruz (Rick Gonzalez) stands up and answers the question Carter asked him long before about what his deepest fear is, reciting a modified version of author Marianne Williamson‘s famous quote. Carter realizes his team is whole again, and offers his sincere, emotional thanks to the boys whose lives he has changed and to the boys who have changed his.
The Five-Word Review: Predictable but solid inspirational film.