The latest in Lionsgate’s line of movies about nice black people (see Daddy’s Little Girls and Akeelah and the Bee), Pride presents a well-tread story with a few tweaks.
Its formula is the sports team underdog winning against all odds. The sport is swimming, which I don’t think we’ve seen much of in the past. All of the usual players are here, though: the frustrated coach inspired to lead, the unlikely athletes who are too poor and too black to succeed, the rival team too rich and too white to be beaten, the crusty old guy who helps out and the token love interest for our protagonist coach.
There, I think I covered them all. Wait, I forgot about the villain. In this case, since it’s about underprivileged African Americans, our bad guy is a drug dealing, gangster pimp.
So it’s a formulaic film. That doesn’t count it out right off the bat, since formulas have been established because they have been – and can still be – successful. Pride actually does fairly well, thanks to its grounding in true events. I was reminded of The Rock’s recent film, Gridiron Gang, which is similar in feel and in its basis in reality. Now, both films were liberally injected with fictitious elements, but that’s too be expected from a major studio project.
The performances are quite strong across the board, with Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow) leading the pack as real-life coach Jim Ellis. His comic backup is Bernie Mac (Transformers), who ranges from amusing to hilarious. The rest aren’t worth singling out, but I had no problem buying any of their scenes. That puts Pride above plenty of other films, in my book.
Back to the formula, my complaints about Pride all revolve around the story. From start to finish, viewers either know exactly what’s going to happen next, or are choosing between a couple of options at each turn. The film also makes unexpected leaps ahead in the formula, perhaps trying to reach the next point before you can see it coming, or maybe just to change things up. The result is viewers have a sense of uneven pacing, and it affects their level of emotional buy-in to the story.
So Pride is a fairly enjoyable, formulaic sports film. How’s the DVD?
Pride is presented on a single disc, in 2.35 widescreen format. As we should expect, the transfer offers a clean, sharp picture with well-balanced colours. A scene of particular visual interest includes the first shots of the recreation center’s restored pool, which presents an interesting contrast between the gleaming, lit pool and the dark, grimy building that houses it. Overall, this is a visually pleasing disc.
Audio comes our way via a 5.1 Dolby Digital track. Here, we do have an issue. The balance is off, with dialogue being difficult to hear in some scenes without cranking the sound up a fair bit. Of course, you’re then immediately hit with a new scene that’s big and loud, so you have to turn things back down. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had to play with the volume level so often during a film. It’s an annoyance, and should have been avoided.
Audio is also available in English 2.0, while subtitles are offered in English and Spanish.
Pride offers a smattering of bonus features, but nothing worthy of praise. There’s a commentary by first-time director Sunu Gonera, two deleted scenes and a handful of musical montages. Gonera’s commentary is fine, but I’m not sure there’s much reason to give it a whirl, except perhaps to get the skinny on some of the weird editing decisions. The deleted scenes are bad and boring, and I’m particularly glad the extended swim meet didn’t make the final film. As for the musical montages, they’re ok if you like that sort of thing, but I found the titles misleading and their content repetitive.
Pride is the kind of film you’ll know before watching whether you’ll enjoy it or not. If you’re trolling the video store and low on options, this formulaic sports flick may be worth your time. As for the DVD itself, it’s only average. Not recommended for purchase.