“Casablanca.” Great movie. “The Godfather.” Thrilling. “Pulp Fiction.” A wild ride.
Then there’s “The U Part 2.” OK, maybe that’s a bit much, but I had the biggest smile on my face as the ending credits rolled.
I’ll take all the great experiences of my life – getting accepted to the University of Miami, my driver’s license, my senior prom, SportsDesk, WVUM – up against the absolute excitement I had watching this movie.
The highly anticipated sequel to 2009’s “The U” premiered on ESPN Saturday, directed by award-winning filmmaker and UM alum Billy Corben. Going into the viewing, I knew the basic subject matter of the film would revolve around the second rise and fall of the Hurricanes football program, beginning with the exodus of Dennis Erickson to the Seattle Seahawks and the ushering in of the Butch Davis era.
I really was taken aback by the similarities between the beginnings of Davis’s tenure and current head coach Al Golden’s era. The banner that flew over the Orange Bowl with Davis said, “National Champs to National Chumps.” Al Golden’s was more of a simple, “Fire Al Golden.” The difference was Davis built a team that would become what many call the greatest college team ever: the 2001 National Champions.
Al Golden and his coaching staff have been said to be the wrong pairing with as talented a team as Miami has had on his watch.
The one really heartbreaking moment was watching the Canes pour onto the field after they had thought they’d won the 2003 Fiesta Bowl and National Championship over Ohio State.
The film music was upbeat, players were happy in interviews, and then the pass interference flag is thrown. Ohio State wins, and from there, the movie really takes a depressing turn, reflecting the fog that evolved into the dark cloud over the program once the Nevin Shapiro connections were revealed in 2011.
Corben did a fantastic job interviewing several players and staffers in that dark and dismal late 2000s era, specifically former student manager and equipment manager Sean Allen. Allen also worked with Shapiro’s sports agency, Axcess Sports, in the mid 2000s, and said that while he drove a beautiful Mercedes-Benz, wore a Rolex watch, and dined out at Miami’s finest culinary spots, he felt empty and miserable.
What I was surprised about is the glimmer of hope the ending sequences gave. “The U Part 2” offers introspection on the program’s darker days as opposed to its predecessor, as never seen before, but also implies that Coach Davis faced the same scandals coming in that Coach Golden had, and if history has taught us anything, it’s that there may be a silver lining after all.
It’s an easy four stars for me, in my first go-around as The Miami Hurricane’s film critic. I could watch it on a loop nonstop, and once again Billy Corben kicks the field goal that Florida State could never do in those years.
One more note: The very last shot of the film before the credits, for me, is both a reflection of Corben’s brilliance as a filmmaker, and maybe a little partisanship as well. You’ll have to watch “The U Part 2” to find out why.