Terrence Howard as Jim Ellis
Bernie Mac as Elston
Kimberly Elise as Sue Davis
Tom Arnold as Bink
Brandon Fobbs as Puddin Head
Alphonso McAuley as Walt
Regine Nehy as Willie
Nate Parker as Hakim
Kevin Phillips as Andre
Scott Reeves as Jake
Evan Ross as Reggie
Gary Anthony Sturgis as Franklin
It’s another kinda, sorta based on a true story, inspirational sports film in the vein of any given Bruckheimer sports film. Jim Ellis (Terrence Howard) was a former competitive swimmer who created an unlikely swimming program in Philadelphia to build pride and dignity for inner city youths.
If it sounds terribly formulaic, well, that’s because it is. To be fair, “Pride” isn’t the sort of film you watch for originality or insight, just for it’s delivery can it provide sentimentality without mawkishness. The answer is… sort of.
After goofing around the PDR (Philadelphia Department of Recreation) team is soundly beaten by the team from the local prep school and must come together before facing them again in the state championship. Without a great deal of ingenuity (something “Pride” doesn’t really have) there’s really only two ways this particular story can end, and both of them have been done before.
It would be generous to describe most of the characters as two dimensional, so the weight of characterization rests on the actors’ abilities to make them seem deeper than they are. Having Terrence Howard in the lead is a good beginning for actually pulling that off, though his normally light, whispery delivery at first seems a little out of place for the stern earnestness this kind of role usually requires. Still, he’s far too good an actor to ever be bad and his skill is one of the things that keeps “Pride” afloat.
Bernie Mac, as the grumbling custodian of the rec center, uses his patented misanthropy to good effect and Gary Anthony Sturgis is surprisingly effective as the neighborhood pimp and drug dealer, trying to lure the good kids away from Ellis. His growly voice and oily charm cover up the fact that he’s walking cliché and he’s actually quite entertaining to watch, even if nothing much is ever done with him.
On the downside, the rest of the main cast are mostly young actors without a great deal of experience, and it shows. For the most they aren’t given anything they can’t actually do, but the most agonizing moments of “Pride” usually belong to them.
The only thing that can get around that is a good script that knows how to deal with those kind of weaknesses. “Pride” doesn’t have that; it generally takes the easiest and most obvious way out of any situation in paint-by-numbers fashion.
It’s an interesting story even if it is lacking in originality, which makes the perfunctory nature of it’s telling worse than it might be otherwise. A great deal is made over the end credits about how important Ellis’ work has been for the kids he’s worked with, but if that’s true one would think more effort would be put into it. It’s not particularly bad, but the same-old same-old isn’t quite enough.