PRIDE (Sunu Gonera). 104 minutes. Opens Friday (March 23). For venues and times, see Movies, page 89. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
There's no genre more formulaic than the inspirational sports movie, and no genre more satisfying. The underdog team, the snobbish, cheating opposition, the training montage, the character-building loss and the high-stakes finale - it all comes at you like clichés in a locker-room interview.
And it all works. Because the genre hasn't yet undergone sloppy revisionism, even a mediocre sports movie rides a juggernaut narrative. Pride is a mediocre sports movie.
Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow) plays the conflicted but committed coach. In 1974 Philadelphia, he whips a group of layabout African-American kids into contenders for the championship - in swimming. Despite growing up on street basketball, they soon take to the water. And despite their muscled bodies, they still need the discipline of a simmering father figure.
South African director Sunu Gonera makes his Hollywood debut here, casting the streets of Philly in high-contrast, saturated colour and finding a kinetic visual style that surges in and out of the pool. But the film lives on Howard's slow-burn performance. That and the pure buoyancy of the genre keep this thing afloat.