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Teaching Pride through Swimming
on June 26, 2007
Jim Ellis (Terrence Howard) loves to swim. During the 60's, he joined his schools swim team, which created problems. Jim is African American, and the white competitors in North Carolina weren't happy to be competing against him.
10 years later, Jim has landed in Philadelphia. Despite his credential to teach math, the only job he can get is cleaning out the recreation center in the poor part of town. It's scheduled to be torn down soon. The only person inside the building is maintenance man Elston (Bernie Mac). The closest anyone else comes to it is playing basketball outside.
That changes one day when the basketball hoops are taken down in the march toward tearing down the center. As five of the guys stand there fuming about the loss of the hoops, Jim invites them in to use the pool.
Slowly, Jim gains their trust and begins to teach them the fundamentals of swimming. They gain enough skill to ask to go to a meet, hoping to meet women. But do five men and one woman really have the skills to compete against all male teams who have been training for years?
Okay, let's get the obvious out of the way first. This is an underdog sports movie featuring kids from a bad neighborhood. Picturing every cliche that normally brings to mind? Yep, they're here.
But, is this movie worth seeing? Absolutely.
As is always needed for a film like this to succeed, you need to become attached to the characters. Jim is a sympathetic character from the start, and the youth he's working with grow on you quickly as well. The result is a movie that truly does inspire.
To top is off, the acting is great. Terrence Howard is absolutely believable as Jim. His drive to reach the kids comes through in every scene. I'm not usually a Bernie Mac fan, but he did a great job as well with a part that is mostly series with a few comic bits thrown in. And the kids were all great.
I do have a couple complaints. The minor one is the needless slowing down of the climax. The two swimmers in the final race are slowed way down to build suspense. And I do mean way down. It was beyond laughable.
My bigger complaint was the language. Considering the PG rating, I was surprised by the handful of "s" words that littered the film. Not as surprising were the few racial epithets used. Unfortunately, they fit the time period and setting of the film.
This film isn't highly original, but it is inspiring. And if that's what you want to watch, you could do much worse then this great film.