Pride is Predictable But Powerful
Friday, July 13, 2007.
By Keith Boykin
I can't remember the last time I saw a movie that left me with so many mixed emotions, but PRIDE is one such movie. Set in 1974, the film tells the story of a former high school swimmer who decides to take a group of inner city basketball players and turn them into competitive swimmers.
When the city decides to close the dilapidated Marcus Foster Recreation Center in Philadelphia, the young black men who play basketball become the first victims once the basketball rim is taken down. Then Jim Ellis (Terrence Howard) invites the kids inside the recreation center to swim. Some of them flail around at first, but they're all talented athletes who eventually learn under the stewardship of their new coach.
The story is simple but the movie itself is uneven. The first 30 to 45 minutes of the film were filled with predictable story lines, familiar ghetto stereotypes and completely lifeless dialogue. About the only thing to appreciate during this part of the movie is the ubiquitous eye candy.
The guys on the swim team (particularly Nate Parker and Kevin L. Phillips) are all hot in their own way. But at some point in the middle of the movie, it starts to work, and the end result is a beautiful and uplifting story of triumph that every inner city kid should see.
If you've seen any black movie from the 1970s, the characters in this period piece will come across as familiar hybrids from the celluloid past. There's the corner pimp and drug dealer (Gary Anthony Sturgis), the lazy city maintenance man (played by Bernie Mac), and the city councilwoman (Kimberly Elise) who wants to shut down the facility. They provide the initial conflict for the Hollywood angle of the story.
But the real story is about the five young men and one young woman (Regine Nehy) who learn to believe in themselves through the discipline and teamwork of swimming. When the team goes up against a wealthy white prep school, the black kids act up out of their own insecurity. But that's when the coach warns them to get serious about their lives and to stop getting in the way of their own potential. That's a powerful message that many of us -- young and old -- need to hear.
One of the best things about Pride is that the kids don't fit into the current contemporary hoodlum stereotype of black youth. This was America when teenage kids went outside the house to play and didn't sit inside playing video games all day. And this was black America before rap music and hip hop turned us all into wannabe thugs. The ragtag group of street corner basketball players in Pride are fun-loving kids who know their age and their boundaries.
Imagine the "Fat Albert" kids if they all hit the gym and played basketball. In fact, one of the unlikely heroes is a slight young stuttering kid (Evan Ross) who helps out in a surprising way.
I hear lots of black moviegoers constantly (and appropriately) complaining about the lack of positive stories about black people. But if you want to see more positive movies, then you should probably support the films like this one so Hollywood will get the message.
I have to be honest.
I did not like the first half of this movie at all. But I absolutely loved the second half of the film. If you go see it, please keep an open mind as the story unfolds. I think you will enjoy it in the end.
As for me, I laughed, I cried, and I left the theater feeling inspired.
Keith Boykin is a writer, broadcaster, journalist and political commentator. He blogs at Keithboykin.com
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