Disney gets all the good sports movies. The Miracle on Ice, the 40-year-old Rookie, the first all black starting lineup. Lionsgate gets stuck with the first black swim team. You try triumphing over adversity underwater!
Movie Review: Pride
Jim Ellis (Terrence Howard), a once talented swimmer held back by '60s racism, can now (in the '70s) only get a job cleaning up a rec center about to be demolished. But he gets the local boys interested in swimming (the pool has somehow been completely maintained and has no floating gunk in it). The boys inspire the community and make great strides towards acceptance in the swimming community at large.
Of all the tried and true sports underdog movies, Pride holds up among the most competent. It hits all the notes with only one truly awful line. "If you walk out, you are walking out on your life!" Come on.
There are montages, glorious, glorious montages. The swimming lesson montage: running into the divider line, learning to breath, learning the various strokes. The unorthodox teaching montage: using basketball moves, jumping up steps, watching a mirror alongside the pool.
Terrence Howard is a total badass. He races the most skeptical disgruntled youth and gives him a total head start. When reminded that it's a race, he quips, "Not really." Bernie Mac plays a good character as the rec center founder, pretty much coming back to life when he sees what a difference it can make for the kids.
There sure are plenty of sweaty or otherwise glistening beefcakes for the ladies. The kids basically fill the standard roles: the talented hardcase who just needs the right motivation, the weak little kid who's all heart, etc. All the white people are one-note A-holes, mostly personified in Tom Arnold as the champion coach. And the gangster corrupting the youths is a total cartoon.
The filmmakers do their best to make the swimming competitions visually exciting. They move the camera over and under the water. Tracking shots of the speed swimmers would be cool if they were held longer. But otherwise, it's still "this guy's a little bit ahead of that guy. Oh wait, he's catching up and now he's a little bit more ahead of the other guy."
If you're such a junkie for sports movies, Pride will deliver the goods. If you're a bit tired of the same old thing every few months, Pride won't change your mind. The real Jim Ellis surely did a wonderful thing for his community, but the most striking thing about seeing him in the end credits is that he's not nearly as fabulously handsome as Terrence Howard.