Ken Carter, a high school basketball coach in working-class Richmond, California, made national headlines in January 1999 when he benched his entire team (then undefeated) in midseason because some players' grades were too poor. This dramatization of his story consistently takes the high road, stressing education over sports and responsibility over despair, and Samuel L. Jackson is good as the straightforward, maddeningly stubborn coach, who gets more static from the parents than the players. But screenwriters Mark Schwahn and John Gatins continually compromise the story's real-world bite by recycling scenes and situations from other coach-team weepies (Hoosiers et al) and teacher-student inspirationals (Stand and Deliver et al). This is supposed to be about setting high standards, yet it's full of fudged ultimatums; in the end I couldn't be sure whether its morality was complex or just confused. Thomas Carter (Save the Last Dance) directed. PG-13, 137 min.
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