Glory Road

"Weak"

Glory Road Review


In 1966, color-blind college basketball coach Don Haskins (Josh Lucas) led Texas Western's mixed-race team to the NCAA championship game where they faced Adolph Rupp's battle-tested Kentucky Wildcats. Haskins had rotated his handpicked squad of streetballers into and out of the active lineup all season, but consciously started five African American players in the finals as a statement that college basketball's racial balance - like that of our civil rights-minded country - was shifting.

It's a revolutionary story, though one told with overbearingly conventional techniques by Glory Road director James Gartner. The first-time filmmaker hardly deserves all the blame. His strings are being pulled by pandering producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who wouldn't know subtle if it sat on his shoulders.

One has to wonder what Chris Cleveland's original Road screenplay looked like before Bruckheimer turned it over to his top script dog Gregory Allen Howard for gratuitous simplification. Howard makes a habit of grinding constructive plots into featureless pulp for mass consumption - his chop work can be seen on fellow sports projects Remember the Titans (which Road essentially mirrors) and Ali.

Once shoehorned into Bruckheimer's cookie-cutter formula, the remarkable accomplishments of Haskins' team are reduced to predictable challenges on the road to understanding teamwork. Likeminded teenagers from diverse backgrounds overcome their off-court obstacles in time to win the proverbial big game. The actors assigned to play Texas Western's team are all fine, though no one stands apart from the athletic pack. Gartner's on-court footage is adequate, and there's tension in games despite our knowledge of results.

Things get dicey outside the gym. Road doesn't ignore the blatant racism this team faced, but handles it with the ham-fisted subtly of a semi-truck. Gartner overplays the mounting hatred plaguing the team way after his point has been made. It taints the team's accomplishments on the court, which could have stood alone as the picture's focal point.

Lucas is less-than-intimidating in the defined coach role, though kudos to Buena Vista for dropping previously attached Ben Affleck from the part before cameras rolled. Jon Voight dons facial masks and adopts a nondescript twang to play Rupp, though the picture is hesitant to have the Hall of Fame coach utter anything that could be construed as controversial or racist. Emily Deschanel warms the bench as Haskins' supportive wife, called on only when Road wishes to remind us the coach's family lived under the watchful eye of belligerent basketball fans. In one shameless scene, Deschanel must tip-toe around a socialite party a overhear whispers about her husband, who is deemed an outcast for actually associating with colored folk. Surprisingly, no one burns a cross on Haskins' lawn. Perhaps that scene will be on the DVD.

Interview footage with surviving members of the historic Texas Western and Kentucky teams accompany the closing credits. It's a terrible idea. The enthusiasm and reverence with which these men speak of the game only demonstrate how effective a documentary about the event would have been in place of this tepid, artificial, and cliché-ridden carbon copy of Coach Carter, Friday Night Lights, and Remember the Titans.

Game on!



Glory Road

Facts and Figures

In Theaters: Friday 13th January 2006

Box Office Worldwide: $42.6M

Production compaines: Walt Disney

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

IMDB: 7.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: James Gartner

Producer: , , , Andrew Given

Starring: as Don Haskins, as Bobby Joe Hill, as Adolph Rupp, as Jerry Armstrong, as Moe Iba, as Harry Flournoy, Sam Jones III as Willie Worsley, Damaine Radcliff as Willie 'Scoops' Cager, as Orsten Artis, as Mary Haskins, as Ross Moore, as Nevil Shed, Kip Weeks as Togo Railey, Wilbur Fitzgerald as Wade Richardson, Andy Stahl as Dr. Ray, as George McCarty, Mitch Eakins as Dick Myers, Samuel Jones III as Willie Worsley

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