Glory Road

on January 13, 2006 by Annlee Ellingson
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"Winning changes everything," the tagline reads, but it's a long, hard road to glory. Set in the politically charged mid-1960s, this basketball drama, based on a true story, stars Josh Lucas as Hall of Famer Coach Don Haskins, a player sidelined by a knee injury now coaching high-school girls basketball who jumps at the opportunity to lead a Division I college team at Texas Western. Hired more to keep the players in line than for his philosophy, Haskins nonetheless is determined to win, with or without the budget or pedigree to recruit. When the usual suspects refuse his overtures, Haskins turns to an untapped well of talent, trolling urban centers for the best black players in the country.

Fish-out-of-water comedy comprises much of the genuine humor here, not only along color lines but also between the new arrivals from the city and their rural Texan teammates. But together the players make history in an organization with key members still telling themselves that, while these African-Americans are undeniably skilled, they lack the intelligence to handle the pressure of championship play. The Miners make it all the way to the 1966 NCAA tournament, where Haskins makes a statement with the first all-black starting lineup.

As with most feel-good sports movies of its ilk, "Glory Road" suffers from an earnest sentimentality meant to pluck heartstrings. Like its soundtrack of Motown standards coupled with Alicia Keys songs, the resulting sound is rich and strong when the team, which shares an easy camaraderie, is onscreen, but unfortunately the usually affable Lucas strikes a tinny tone. Still, first-time director James Gartner fluidly captures the emotional crests and nadirs of such pivotal match-ups. A highlight sure to stop up theatre aisles as exiting moviegoers pause to watch is interviews with actual players reminiscing over archival footage of the game. Starring Josh Lucas, Derek Luke, Mehcad Brooks, Emily Deschanel, Al Shearer, Tatyana Ali and Jon Voight. Directed by James Gartner. Written by Christopher Cleveland and Bettina Gilois. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. A Buena Vista release. Drama. Rated PG for racial issues including violence and epithets and momentary language. Running time: 118 min

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