For all the dangers football poses to its players, the sport still represents hope to thousands of young men. Judd Ehrlich's persuasive but slight documentary "We Could Be King" movingly argues for the necessity of high-school athletics, especially in low-income communities, where pigskin is a key tool educators have in encouraging would-be dropouts to stay in school.
After the Philadelphia school board closes 37 schools and merges Martin Luther King High with its Germantown rivals, heroic Ed Dunn oversees the union of the two football teams. Laid off from his job as a math teacher and coach, Dunn volunteers his afternoons to keeping his athletes focused on the field and not on their two-year losing streak. After a few early losses, Dunn guides his team into a series of unlikely wins.
Ehrlich thus makes rousing fodder out of MLK High's troubles — a decision that rightly celebrates the Cougars' victories but flattens much of the story line. Neither Dunn nor his students — hulking but distracted Dontae, promising but troubled Sal, and kind, affable Joe — are endowed with dimensions that exceed Ehrlich's preformed narrative. Watching Dontae give up on reading a difficult book in English class is almost as painful as seeing one of his teammates struggle to stand after a hard tackle. But "We Could Be King" provides no introspection, only inspiration.
"We Could Be King."
No MPAA rating.
Running time: 1 hour, 14 minutes.
At Laemmle's Claremont 5.