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GLORY ROAD (director: James Gartner; screenwriters: Christopher Cleveland/Bettina Gilois; cinematographers: John Toon/Jeffrey L. Kimball; editor: John Wright; music: Trevor Rabin, with the vocalist Alicia Keys; cast: Josh Lucas (Don Haskins), Red West (Ross Moore), Derek Luke (Bobby Joe Hill), Austin Nichols (Jerry Armstrong), Jon Voight (Adolph Rupp), Evan Jones (Moe Iba), Schin A. S. Kerr (David Lattin), Damaine Radcliff (Willie ‘Scoops’ Cager), Sam Jones III (Willie Worsley), Al Shearer (Nevil Shed), Mehcad Brooks (Harry Flournoy), Alphonso McAuley (Orsten Artis); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Jerry Bruckheimer; Walt Disney Pictures; 2006)
“This is the type of story that’s better suited to the documentary format.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Inspirational sports drama by first-time director James Gartner is not as good but is similar in plot to the mediocre “Remember the Titans.” It’s filled with tired sports clichés and plays loose and fast with its real-life story of a tiny college in El Paso, Texas, the Texas Western Miners (now renamed the University of Texas at El Paso) and its starting five African-American winning basketball team in 1966 of the NCAA championship from all-white powerhouse Kentucky and its legendary coach Adolph Rupp (Jon Voight). Rupp is painted as a sinister bigot and adorned with a prosthetic nose, while the college’s fans appear as crackers waving Confederate flags at the big game. It was the first time a college team started five blacks in a championship game. The film tells of the improbable success of the integrated team and how everyone learns after a bumpy start to put aside their prejudices and vie for equality in the name of winning.

Josh Lucas puts on some weight to play Miners’ coach Don Haskins, who previously coached a girls high school team until recruited by the lowly college in 1962. Texas Western has a losing history, so coach goes across the country and recruits on scholarship seven blacks from the big cities because top white athletes won’t play there (this is erroneous as Haskins inherited several black players from previous teams). When the blacks arrive on campus, they refer to the school as being like ‘Bonanza.’ The charismatic coach is paid a low salary, his family lives in the men’s dorm and he works his team hard believing winning is everything. Things jell when the blacks take over on the court and start beating their opponents and gaining a rep, and the coach preaches discipline and winning while sending out life-inspiring messages that also work on the basketball court.

It acts as a feel-good digression that is predictable as any Disney flick; it tells its story how it broke down racial barriers and faced up to racism in a contrived and overly sentimental way. The film goes out of its way to stereotype whites as inferior athletes to blacks, who jump better and have rhythm. Though it’s a true story, the movie never feels real. This is the type of story that’s better suited to the documentary format.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”