There is no ‘C’ in team

“Coach Carter”Paramount PicturesDirected by Thomas CarterWritten by Mark Schwahn and John GatinsStarring Samuel L. Jackson, Rob Brown, Robert Ri’chard and Rick GonzalezRated PG-13/ 134 minutesOpens Jan. 14, 2005

Three out of five stars

Who wants to see Sam Jackson hit some high school kids? Better question: Who doesn’t?

It shouldn’t come as a shock that “Coach Carter” is a byproduct of the same creative masterminds that brought you the ingenious “Hardball”-the heartwarming story of a man who is forced to coach a youth baseball team as part of his court-ordered community service.

“Coach Carter” is the heartwarming story of a man who coaches a youth basketball team in a similar fashion. Based on the influence of controversial high school basketball coach Ken Carter, who coached at Richmond High School, in Richmond, Calif., from 1997-2002, the movie is a reprise of a common tale. Carter made headlines in the late 1990s when he imposed a lockout on his athletes until they raised their grades-the event that inspired this tasty cinematic morsel.

Carter owns a local athletics store in Richmond, and is recruited by the local high school to revitalize its fledgling basketball team. He believes that the kids have the ability to make it out of a neighborhood where they are more likely to go to jail than college.

Carter takes over the program, but initially encounters opposition from the team. He gets the most trouble from Timo, a neighborhood thug played by Ryan Gonzales (whom you might remember as Spanish, the Red Lobster kid from “Old School”). Timo and Carter duke it out throughout the movie until the end, when Timo is forced to choose between a life on the streets and a life not in jail.

One of the high points of “Coach Carter” comes when an angry parent tries to sass Jackson while he’s stopped at a light with his son.

You think that Carter is going to be the bigger man and walk away, but that isn’t why Sam Jackson gets the big bucks-he gets out of his car and tries to pull the man into the street and get him to fight. It isn’t until his son (played by Robert Ri’chard, of Nickelodeon’s “My Cousin Skeeter”) gets out of the car and tries to restrain him that he lets it go.

The story is not necessarily something you might call innovative, and viewers get the feeling that, given the opportunity, 10,000 monkeys sitting at 10,000 separate typewriters could have written a better script. Either that or the next greatest American novel-it’s up in the air.

Something about “Coach Carter” comes across as incredibly familiar, probably because you have seen it before, disguised as “Stand and Deliver,” “Dangerous Minds” and countless others.

But, in spite of its trite predictability and two-hour running time, “Coach Carter” still manages to pull off a certain degree of charm. After all, it’s a sports movie-there are only so many ways it can go. Plus, the story actually has a plot twist at the end that might catch you somewhat off-guard, a bonus

The best thing “Coach Carter” has going for it is its young ensemble cast. The film brings back Rob Brown, last seen in “Finding Forester.” The 20-year-old actor said he would never make another movie after “Forester,” but evidently the reality of being out of high school made him want to give it another go. His character is actually involved in a relatively interesting sub-plot with his girlfriend (played by “singer” Ashanti).

So the question becomes, what have we learned from movies in which Samuel L. Jackson gets involved in his community? If you try to talk some jive to the man while he’s driving, he will change lanes and get out of his car.

But honestly, it’s hard to be too critical of this movie, because it is what it is. If “Rudy” and “Stand and Deliver” tickled your fancy, and you want to see Sam Jackson hit the kid from “Old School,” then “Coach Carter” is worth a view.

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