Terrence Howard goes from self-improving pimp in Hustle & Flow to squeaky-clean swim coach Jim Ellis, a man who, according to the prologue, felt the heel of racism on his neck as a swimmer. Ellis arrives at a rundown Philly rec center and starts a swim program, saving the facility from closure, transforming kids' lives and rallying the community. With the help of the maintenance chief (Bernie Mac) and with an eye on winning over the local councilwoman (Kimberly Elise), he instills self-respect and discipline. The main hurdles are the young people's low expectations and the neighborhood pimp-cum-drug dealer. But rehabilitation happens with a minimum of fuss, and the team soon competes on a high level, even earning the respect of Arnold's bigoted coach of a lily-white crosstown rival.
Along with costumes and other design elements, the kids' goofy behavior harkens back to 1970s stereotypes. “No Clowning In or Out of Pool” is stenciled on the wall but is made obsolete by a barrage of teamwork platitudes. Granted, it's hard to be original in this space, and pride is a complicated emotion — necessary for success but also a deadly sin. Plus, no matter how corny or awkward, an underdog movie will always tug a little. At the end we see footage of the real Jim Ellis today, still asking his charges to embody the Philadelphia Department of Recreation acronym: Pride, Determination and Resilience.
Cast: Terrence Howard, Bernie Mac, Kimberly Elise and Tom Arnold
Director: Sunu Gonera
Screenwriters: Kevin Michael Smith & Michael Gozzard and J. Mills Goodloe and Norman Vance, Jr.
Producers: Brett Forbes, Patrick Rizzotti, Michael Ohoven, Adam Rosenfelt and Paul Hall
Genre: Sports drama
Rating: PG for thematic material, language including some racial epithets, and violence
Running time: 105 min.
Release date: March 23, 2007