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GLORY ROAD
U.S. Release Date: January 13, 2006
Distributor: Buena Vista
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
Composer: Trevor Rabin
Cast: Josh Lucas, Derek Luke, Jon Voight
Running Time: 1 hour and 46 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG (racial issues including violence and epithets, and mild language)

Race-Based College Hoops Shoots Blanks
by Scott Holleran

What looked like another decent, feel-good sports picture, like Rudy, Miracle or Remember the Titans, falls apart in Buena Vista's Glory Road. This race-based drama lacks guts, glory and, worst of all, a good basketball game.

Josh Lucas plays Texas Western coach Don Haskins, an ex-girls' basketball coach who was hired in the mid 1960s as head coach for the men's team at the relatively unknown Lone Star state college and who recruited several black players for the starting lineup. That singular act took a certain quality that makes for an exciting premise.

But Glory Road darts, jumps and dunks, with no time for exploring what moves a man to take a stand against the whole culture, which Haskins did. Yes, he wanted to win, and he had a better shot at scoring with black players—typically not played on the court and especially not in the South—but it's safe to say any college coach wants to win. Whatever made Coach Haskins a great coach who led his groundbreaking team to victory, it is missing from this superficial story.

Glory Road lumbers back and forth, scoring points at the expense of focusing on any one individual, let alone on the coach responsible for leading the team to an historic championship. Haskins moves with his family into a college dormitory to live—a condition of his employment—yet not much is made of this unusual arrangement, which must have put a strain on his marriage and fatherhood. His coaching philosophy is reduced to instruction in one move, an intelligent maneuver, but that's it; Haskins, who later compromises his athletic approach, must stand aside for the movie's black players, who are painted with the broadest brush.

An air of unreality takes over, with the black teammates coming into the Texas landscape scared of lynching and rednecks and then suddenly heading into a Mexican cantina like they own the place and magically finding a waitress who's black—this after bemoaning they're the only black folks around. Within minutes they are partying with numerous blacks—allowing white players to tag along—leaving one to wonder what caused the instantaneous population shift.

The unrealistic scenes undercut the movie's moral message, trivializing racism in sports. By turning 1965 upside down and sideways, with blacks talking too modern and whites yearning to party with blacks, Glory Road shoves everything important—Haskins, the progression of a winning season and the effects of racism—to the sidelines.

The players seem unaware of racism for half the movie, until a player is pounded by thugs and, then, remarkably, they're ready to pack up and go home. Disjointed subplots about a rival team, coached by Adolph Rupp (Jon Voight), Mrs. Haskins and the drama of what must have been an outstanding season of basketball are lost, despite some fast breaks. The students' academic performances are relegated to a big, black momma bit that plays like a studio executive's mandate to include Coach Carter's scholastic excellence for good measure. Coach Carter would no more take this Glory Road than cut his players slack.

Lucas is uneven in the role, though his best scenes may have been cut from a role that should have been larger. Maybe this team changed basketball forever, but you'd never know it from this poorly directed pap.


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