Coach Carter

Coach Carter (2004)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Ashanti, Bob Costas

On March 15, Sony unleashed the PSP (Portable Playstation) on the world. It was quite a splash. The PSP displays photos, plays songs, runs games, and gives you DVD movies in a new format that looks like 3D on an LCD screen (which it is). Paramount Pictures has just released "Coach Carter" on the UMD disc for PSP. It is the episodic but inspirational true story of Ken Carter, a Richmond, California sporting goods store owner. Carter is hired to coach Richmond's high school basketball team for four months. For $1,000. And Richmond is one tough little city. Drugs, gangs, and guns. The young basketball players are angry and undisciplined. Only 50% of them ever graduate. Some can't even read. Can Coach Carter keep these volatile young men focused?

Coach Carter has some new rules. Each player must sign a written contract. He must maintain a 2.3 grade-point-average (C+). And there's a dress code for games. Ties and jackets. Punishment for breaking the rules could be 1,000 push-ups. Even his son Damien receives no special treatment as Carter keeps pushing, asking his boys: "What is your deepest fear?"

Suddenly, this losing team starts winning. They are undefeated. They win the Bayhill Tournament Championship. Carter reminds them: "Winning in here is the key to winning out there…" But when the boys don't keep up their grades, Carter closes the gym. He benches his entire team. They forfeit two games in mid-season. Attacked by teachers and the community, Coach Carter must decide what is really important. Winning the game, or winning the game of life? Some boys end up in prison. Some end up dead. So what is the priority? Winning the basketball game, or graduating from high school and college? The school board elects to push him out. Who will vote for Coach Carter now? You'll never guess…

"Coach Carter" is a gritty look at the educational catastrophe assaulting the American culture. It works. The film is listed at 136 minutes, but it's really 138 minutes. And that's part of the problem. At over two hours, it's just too long. Nevertheless, it is an emotional and stimulating success. Samuel L. Jackson shines as Coach Carter, but except him the acting is somewhat uneven, including another-singer- trying-to-act Ashanti's performance as a pregnant girlfriend.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is crisp and clean. The musical track is well-integrated, though a little choppy, with generally good separation. Foley and sound effects are mainly on the left side. Dialogue surfaces to the right. The original aspect ratio of "Coach Carter" is 1.85:1, very close to the 1.78:1 ratio of the PSP screen. Paramount cropped the film to 1.78:1 for this release, causing very tiny black bars to appear at the top and bottom of the PSP screen.

The movie is bested summed-up by Carter's speech to the boys… "Remember, your presence automatically liberates others…"