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Glory Road Review

By Shawn McKenzie 01/13/2006

A year ago, I reviewed the true story basketball movie Coach Carter.  I thought that it was decent due to a great performance by Samuel L. Jackson and it had an unpredictable ending, which I appreciated.  Disney’s Glory Road is definitely not Coach Carter, but it isn’t a bad movie either.

In 1966, basketball coach Donald Lee “The Bear” Haskins (Josh Lucas) had been coaching for a women’s high school basketball team in Fort Worth, Texas, when he accepts the head basketball coaching position at Texas Western College in El Paso for the “Mighty” Miners.  The catch is that he, his wife Mary (Emily Deschanel), and their three young kids…6-year-old Mark (Samuel Garland), 3-year-old Brent (Patrick Blanchard), and their infant sibling…had to move into the men’s dorm so that he could coach the NCAA Men’s Division I basketball team.  Part of this reason is because the Dean wanted him to keep an eye on the players, and because the school’s biggest benefactor, Wade Richardson (Wilbur Fitzgerald), didn’t have a lot of money for housing.  Wade also didn’t have a lot of money for Coach Haskins and his assistant coach Moe Iba (Evan Jones) to recruit the top white players, so they decide to recruit the best black players they can find from around the country, since many of them have never gotten a chance to get a college scholarship before.  Even though TWC had some black players already, Don wanted to give more of them a shot, based on their talent.  He recruits seven players for the Miners from places like Detroit and New York.  Bobby Joe Hill (Derek Luke) is the star player on the team.  He has the most talent, but he has always been put on the sidelines because of his race.  He also has a girlfriend named Tina Malichi (Tatyana Ali.)  David “Big Daddy D” Lattin (Schin A.S. Kerr) is one of the tallest players, but he has a tendency to dunk the ball too often.  Willie Worsley (Sam Jones III) is one of the smaller players, and he often gets in conflicts with David.  Willie “Scoops” Cager (Damaine Radcliff) has an enlarged heart that doesn’t allow him to play often, until a plea from his mother (Valeri Ross) to Don changes that.  Nevil Shed (Al Shearer) is a player who has some self-confidence problems.  Harry Flournoy, Jr. (Mehcad Brooks) is a player who needs to get his grades up or he won’t be allowed to play.  His mother (Elisabeth Omilami) makes sure of that.  Orsten Artis (Alphonso McAuley) is the last black player on the team, and they join white players Jerry Armstrong (Austin Nichols), Togo Railey (Kip Weeks), Dick Meyers (Mitch Eakins), David Palacio (Alejandro D. Hernandez), and Louis “Flip” Baudoin (James Olivard.)  The white players have their reservations about the black players, but soon they recognize that talent trumps race.  Team trainer Ross More (Red West) tells Don that there is an unofficial rule about the number of black players who can be on the court at the same time during a game, which Don ignores.  He just wants to break the players of their penchant for showing off and wants them all to work as a team.  Soon, the Miners go on a winning streak, and their critics are baffled.  They end up playing against the Kentucky Wildcats team, led by four-time Division I title winner Coach Adolph Rupp (Jon Voight), and including future NBA coach Pat Riley (Wesley Brown) as a starter.  Don makes the now famous decision to start the team with five black players going up against Rupp’s all white players in the Division I Championship.

Jerry Bruckheimer produced this movie, and the main reason I mention this is because he also produced the 2000 Disney movie Remember the Titans.  The only reason I bring up that point is that they are both Disney sports movies with similar plotlines.  There are only a few differences:  this movie takes place in 1966, and Titans took place in 1971; this movie has basketball, whereas Titans had football; this movie was based in a college, and Titans was based in a high school.  Otherwise, they were both about school athletic teams facing racism while trying to win the big championship.  First time director James Gartner did an okay job, but he didn’t manage to bring out any excitement from the game angle.  The racism plot was interesting, but since we had already seen it in Titans, it didn’t feel fresh.

The cast did a good job, though no one stood out.  Lucas did the best job that he could, but he was no Denzel Washington from Titans, or even Jackson from Carter.  I heard that Ben Affleck was originally set to play Haskins, but he pulled out of the project due to scheduling conflicts.  I wonder if he would have done a better job.  I have a feeling that Deschanel made this movie before she signed on to play the socially clueless scientist in FOX’s “Bones,” because her talents are wasted here.  She basically plays the loving supportive wife who doesn’t get to do much, other than react to the racism attacks.  Voight is great as usual, but it looks like he borrowed the same makeup team from his 2001 movie Ali.  Luke is the only other highlighted actor in the movie, but I don’t remember many of his scenes that stood out.

In fact, I had a hard time remembering Glory Road at all.  It was screened for me over a month ago, and there were elements I had to recall in my head while writing this review.  I do remember not being bored by the movie, though it didn’t exactly fill me with inspiration either.  If you want to see a movie that deals with racism and ends predictably, go check out this movie.  Otherwise, I recommend renting Carter again.  That movie may not have been a slam-dunk, but at least it wasn’t a foul.

Get the soundtrack including a bunch of '60s R&B classics and three new songs by Alicia Keys:

Get Coach Don Haskins' story of the 1966 NCAA Basketball Championship:

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