Home > Reviews > PRIDE – Aaron Zigman

PRIDE – Aaron Zigman

Original Review by Clark Douglas

This movie is quite an accomplishment, one that obviously took a lot of time and energy to create. It manages the startling feat of combining numerous related genres and inserting well-worn clichés from every single one of them into a jam-packed viewing experience. Too bad the crew couldn’t have put their efforts toward coming up with something fresh. If you’ve never seen an inspirational film involving teachers, coaches, sports, racism, or teenagers, you will be blown away by “Pride”. If this is not the case, I can’t promise such amazing things.

Genre # 1 – “Overcoming Racial Hurdles”: Our story’s primary character is Jim Ellis (Terence Howard), a real-life figure. Ellis attempts to get a job at a noteworthy Philadelphia high school, and is told by evil racist Tom Arnold that the students there couldn’t possibly learn from “a man of your sort.” By the way, isn’t Tom Arnold irritating enough without needing to be turned into an evil racist? Anyway. So, after looking around a bit more, Jim is forced to get a job cleaning up a local recreational center that’s about to be shut down. While there, he forms a swim team with a group of local African-American kids, and helps them face the bigotry and hatred Arnold’s all-white swim team greets them with.

Genre # 2 – “Inspirational Rags-to-Riches Sports Story”: Of course, Ellis isn’t just going to help them deal with social difficulties… he’s going to make them a darn good swim team. Within a short period of time, these kids have turned from looking like “wounded animals in the water” to top-notch swimmers. Would it really be considered a spoiler for me to tell you that they get beaten, learn a lesson about cockiness from it, and then go on to defeat the same team, and in a championship swim meet no less? I think not.

Genre # 3 – “Giving Troubled Kids a Hobby”: Antonio Banderas taught them how to dance. Hilary Swank taught them how to write journals. Ellis teaches his kids how to swim, and has to do everything he can to make swimming cool and compelling. It’s not an easy job, and he has to battle with a local gangster (Gary Anthony Sturges) on numerous occasions. The stakes: who the kids spend their time with after school. Ellis has got to slap these kids upside the head from time to time, but he loves them, and of course, they eventually grow to love him back.

To help smooth the patches between these three well-worn genres, we have well-known actors Bernie Mac and Kimberly Elise to play multi-functional plot devices. Mac is a combination of the positive friend, the negative friend, the man who find his life again, and the emotional gravitas. Elise plays the sister/mother figure of one of the boys on the swim team, the romantic interest for the coach, and a city councilwoman who makes a lot of decisions, like, say, whether the rec center will be shut down. Is Philadelphia this small? Perhaps it should have been set in a smaller town.

However, the setting provides the opportunity to hear a lot of great Philly soul tunes, from the O’Jays, James Brown, The Isley Brothers, Aretha Franklin, and more. Current soul star John Legend also provides an original song for the end credits called “Dare to Dream”. This is a fairly standard musical approach for a sports movie, inspirational period songs being played over various montage sequences, but an effective one. The score is both conventional and effective, as well. What is there to say about Aaron Zigman’s workmanlike effort, other than that it sounds like every other inspirational sports score? Well, almost. There’s one unique idea, the use of African choir and percussion in a couple of sequences, including the finale. It’s an offbeat idea that works quite well and feels fresh. One brief cue featuring this music is included on the soundtrack album.

The performances in “Pride” are good, and the movie is perfectly functional in the most basic way. But there’s a certain standard that an inspirational film must pass, and “Pride” does not match that standard. Thinking about films like “Hoosiers”, “Remember the Titans”, and the recent “Freedom Writers” only makes this one pale in comparison. It’s every inspirational movie you’ve ever seen… but it’s also a victim of bad timing. There have simply been too many films of this sort in the past couple of years. Frankly, I could do without another one of these for a year or two. Solid performances and sincerity are all this movie has to offer, and it’s just not quite enough.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • Dare To Dream (performed by John Legend)
  • Back Stabbers (performed by The O’Jays)
  • Express Yourself (performed by Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band)
  • I’ll Take You There (performed by The Staple Singers)
  • It’s Your Thing (performed by The Isley Brothers)
  • Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto (performed by The Philadelphia International All-Stars)
  • Slow Motion (performed by Johnny Williams)
  • I Love Music (performed by The O’Jays)
  • Love Train (performed by The O’Jays)
  • Strawberry Letter No. 23 (performed by The Brothers Johnson)
  • The Payback (performed by James Brown)
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water (performed by Aretha Franklin)
  • Sizonqoba Simunye

Running Time: ## minutes ## seconds

Lion’s Gate Records 20006 (2007)

Music composed and conducted by Aaron Zigman. Orchestrations by Jesse Voccia. Recorded and mixed by Simon Rhodes and Michael Stern. Edited by Johnny Caruso. Score produced by Aaron Zigman.

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