Pride (Lionsgate, PG)

pride2One performance that does surprisingly stand out, even in its brevity, is that of Tom Arnold. As head coach of the rich kids that the Marcus Foster team battles with, Arnold brings the right amount of skeeve and upper-class white entitlement to his part.

 

pride

Sometimes there's a moment. A moment where, if you accept a challenge, everything will change. Life might even become more difficult, but deep inside you know it'll be worth it. For Jim Ellis (Terrence Howard), that moment comes during the summer of 1971.

Pride is based on the real story of how Ellis turned a group of rowdy kids into Philadelphia's first competitive African-American swim team. Ellis, new in town and desperate for work, finally gets a job working for the Philadelphia Department of Recreation. His assignment? Pack up anything worth keeping from the Marcus Foster Recreation Center, based in one of the city's roughest neighborhoods, to ready it for demolition.

The center is in such a state of disrepair that it could easily be mistaken for a building that's already been destroyed, but Ellis sets up shop for the task at hand. He meets immediate opposition from Elston (Bernie Mac), the center's lone employee who hadn't been told of the final decision to destroy Marcus Foster.

It's obvious the building hasn't been used by anyone for years except Elston. The only visitors are the thugs who hang out in the parking lot and the kids who play basketball with the rickety, net-less hoop in front. When the city takes their hoop, though, is when the real story begins.

Pride can easily be said to have lots of heart and some solid performances, but it's mostly your standard issue underprivileged-unmotivated-kids-get-inspired story. Once Ellis takes the local kids on as students he's willing to scold, lecture, love and fight on their behalf. The neighborhood is tough, the kids are disadvantaged and apathetic, their main competitors are rich and white, and their mentor is filled with hope.

Ellis is so hopeful in fact, that every minor setback his kids experience is cause for a grand speech. I'm all for encouragement and optimism, but after watching Howard's delicate eyes water and hearing his scratchy voice break one too many times, I can tell you that it starts to feel false. The filmmakers were smart to throw in a few scenes of Ellis bravely and physically standing up for his team and what they're trying to build. Otherwise, he would have seemed too wussy for these rough-hewn knuckleheads to even consider listening to.

Howard is effective as Ellis, but he really shines when the character gets some fire in his belly. A scene where Ellis relentlessly confronts the local hood will make you want to jump up and cheer. The actors playing the young teammates can make or break a film like this, but the story doesn't give any of them that much to do. They're mainly broad characterizations: the reformed ruffian, the shy youngster, the clown, the girl, the one who can barely read and the studious one. They all fit their roles well, but don't get much chance to stand out.

One performance that does surprisingly stand out, even in its brevity, is that of Tom Arnold. As head coach of the rich kids that the Marcus Foster team battles with, Arnold brings the right amount of skeeve and upper-class white entitlement to his part. He was able to shake off his trailer-trash bent and look and act like the kind of guy affluent folks would trust with their offspring. │Adrienne Jones

 

http://www.pridefilm.com/site.php 

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