Plot: Based on a true story from the 1970s, schoolteacher Jim Ellis (Terrence Howard) goes to a Philadelphia Department of Recreation Center that is about to be torn down in a rough neighborhood. He attempts to inspire African-American high-schoolers to take up swimming and compete, giving them opportunities he didn’t have.
Terrence Howard as Jim Ellis: After “Crash” and the amazing “Hustle & Flow,” we all know Howard can act. But “Pride” really shows how important the material is for the performance.
Bernie Mac as Elston: In his first scene, Mac proclaims there “ain’t no funny here.” But we’ve come to expect funny from Mac. And before long he is attempting to zing one-liners with Howard, but the script doesn’t really offer much, and Mac’s earlier proclamation proves correct.
Tom Arnold as Bink: It’s just awkward to watch Arnold as a racist rival swim coach. He comes off as a caricature instead of a genuine person.
Sights and sounds: Well, it’s official. We have our first film since the death of James Brown to use one of his songs. “The Payback” is just one of the good ’70s standards played. The oddest moment is the final song played at the finale, which would have been better suited for the “Lion King.” The film captures the look of the ’70s in Philadelphia, but so did the recent “Invincible,” so it doesn’t seem that impressive.
Overall: Last year there was an overwhelming number of “based/inspired by a true story” sports films. In fact, it seems to make a sports movie it MUST be real or as real as Hollywood is willing to make it. Combining “Gridiron Gang,” “Invincible” and “Glory Road” gives you “Pride.” Maybe because it focused on swimming, and didn’t really capture the drama of the sport, it came off like a TV movie. It even borrowed from “Dead Poets Society” with an “Oh Captain, My Captain” moment. And for the most part, they overlook the kids and focus on the coach. Unfortunately, Howard wasn’t given the material and frankly, was brought to tears a little too much.
Overall Grade: 5