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"Glory Road"

Directed by James Gartner.
Written by Chris Cleveland and Bettina Gilois.
Starring Josh Lucas, Derek Luke, and Jon Voight.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  1/19/06


My man Gordon "The Professional" Stokes has another name for "Glory Road", the new Disney basketball film based on the 1965-66 Texas Western (now known as UTEP) Miners' NCAA men's basketball championship team:

"Remember, Remember the Titans"

And, on many levels, Gordon has nailed it right on the head...and, much like that earlier Denzel Washington film, "Glory Road" is a good, if familiar, time at the movies.

That's because producer Jerry Bruckheimer--apparently bored making R-rated blow-up-athons--is back in familiar territory with the story of a lovable, no-one-expects-shit-from-you coach (Josh Lucas, playing Don Haskins) that is completely blind to racial issues in 1960s Texas.  Getting the job with the Miners following a successful career coaching girls at the high school level, Coach Haskins goes out to recruit the best talent he can find to compete with the other teams in his conference...and, in doing so, he adds seven black players to his roster, completely unheard of for majority-white programs during that time period.  Out of nowhere, the Miners start piling up victories on their way to a matchup with Kentucky for the national championship; Kentucky, led by coach Adolph Rupp (Jon Voight), is so lily-white their uniforms just scream "bad guy" from the moment they get on-screen, but it becomes a battle for the ages on the court.  Leading up to the final game, the mixed group of kids on the team bond in the ways that only the movies can fall in love with, like whites wondering how blacks speak jive, or how blacks like to call white boys "Mayberry", or how everyone seems to be able to bond over soul music.

While these moments with the team members feel as familiar to me as it did to get rejected by the hot women back in high school, "Glory Road" perseveres thanks to a straight-forward, pull-no-punches approach to how difficult it was for Texas Western's black players to work through a mountain of racial taunting from fans, a lack of respect from the media and other teams based solely on race, and untold amounts of beatdowns some of the players take from strangers willing to take abuse to the next level.  For a PG film to drop a hateful use of the word "nigger" 50 times is a bit surprising, but I liked it in that parents will be forced to explain to their kids why this is so bad, then and now.  The movie teaches lessons that most films skip, and I'm almost elated that the producers decided to cast Josh Lucas--long on looks, somewhat lacking on talent--because the Lucas draw comprises women of all ages and males that think Lucas is just the kind of cool guy they would want to hang around with on the weekend.

This, matched with the basketball sequences that are reasonably well-done, makes "Glory Road" a keeper in my book.  There are some good laughs, there is a good 60s Motown soundtrack, there's something to be learned in watching how Texas Western plowed opponents throughout a season in which nothing was expected of them, and we get the requisite where-are-they-now epilogue shots...with an added bonus during the credits, where players from the final game that year (including former Kentucky forward and current Miami Heat coach Pat Riley) speak about that game and what it meant, both on and off the floor.  Quality stuff.

It's not perfect, and in the wake of "Friday Night Lights", "Remember the Titans", "Bring It On" and any other white-vs.-black-bring-them-all-together-for-victory film of the last five years, "Glory Road" is a bit clichéd and a topic already heated up in the microwave.  But, this is still a great time at the movies during a slow winter month.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09