STUDIO: Walt Disney Video
MSRP: $29.99
RUNNING TIME: 118 Minutes
• Commentary director James Gartner & producer
Jerry Bruckheimer, screenwriters Christopher
Cleveland & Bettina Gilois
• Deleted scenes
Legacy of the Bear: Highlights of Coach Haskins’
illustrious career
Surviving Practice: An inside look into Coach Haskins’
training regimen
In Their Own Words: Remembering 1966 – Extended
interviews with players and colleagues of Coach Haskins
• Music video by Alicia Keys: "Sweet Music"

The Pitch

It’s Hoosiers with black guys.

The Humans

Josh Lucas, Derek Luke, Schin A.S. Kerr, Sam Jones III, Tayana Ali, Mehcad Brooks, Emily Deschanel, Alphonso McAuley, Damaine Radcliff, Al Shearer, Red West, Kip Weeks, Jon Voight and his makeup.

"Okay, so how many times are we going to pass the ball?"
"Uh Coach, that’s a line from Hoosiers."

"Oh, so what are you, a f$%king film critic? Drop and give me fifty!"

The Nutshell

Former girls high school coach Don Haskins is given the chance to coach at little-regarded Texas Western (now University of Texas, El Paso). With very little budget, few scholarships and the scorn of a racially divided America against him, he builds a basketball team dominated by black players that defeats the powerful all white team of Kentucky in the 1966 NCAA championship game.

The Lowdown

This is a cookie cutter formula of a movie that toes the same lines as other sports movies such as Hoosiers, Remember the Titans, Coach Carter, Blue Chips, The Program and too many others to mention. In fact, it’s exactly what you’d get if you took Hoosiers and Titans, tossed them in a blender and hit frappe. The thing is though, Glory Road manages to be almost as good as Hoosiers, which is the benchmark by which most of these films is told, and is well made, well acted, and very engaging. This movie begins and ends with Josh Lucas, who is the newest entry onto my cool list. He’s showing that he has a pretty good range, from making the ridiculous Stealth more bearable as the square-jawed, macho fighter jockey and likewise portraying a great asshole as Talbot in Hulk. I haven’t noticed him in much of his earlier work, and haven’t seen Poseidon yet, but he’s on my radar for the future. Here, he plays the Gene Hackman / Denzel Washington role in a very intensely understated manner, manages to bring his own spin to it and is very believable in his role as real life former UTEP coach Don Haskins.

"Do you know what the problem here is?"
""We’re not getting back on D?"
"No, my face feels like it’s sliding around a bit…"

There’s a gaggle of other actors in this piece, and director James Gartner juggles things nicely in his first time behind the camera and the writers, Chris Cleveland and Bettina Gilois, manage to give many of that gaggle individual and distinct voices. What I also like about how this movie was crafted is that, although it’s a story about fighting racial injustices in 1960s America, they manage to kick the movie off without throwing that fact in your face every 30 seconds, at least for a good part of the first half. Eventually, however, the focus does turn into what the black players have to endure in order to just play a game of ball. And some of the expected occurrences take place, including one of the players getting jumped by three crackers…uh, I mean white people in a bathroom; threats to Haskins’ family and the trashing of the Miners’ rooms with racial slurs written in blood. There’s also the socialite white wives of the basketball establishment commenting to Haskins’ wife about starting “them coloreds” and the like. But things like that in this case are essentially unavoidable and don’t detract from the good work being put in here on all sides.

"Uh, we’re pretty much going to get killed aren’t we?"
"What was your first clue, Sherlock?"

Of course, the story is about the black players, and Derek Luke leads a good cast as cocky point guard Bobby Joe Hill. Other notables include Schin A.S. Kerr in his first role as (center?) "Big Daddy D" David Lattin, a bad ass who’s as good with the ladies as he is with the ball. Damain Radcliffe is also good Willie Cager, a player who was temporarily sidelined with a heart condition, and Sam Jones III (Smallville’s Pete) is good for some comic relief as diminutive point guard Willie Worsley. Rounding out the cast is Red West as Haskins’ trainer, Ross Moore and Emily Deschanel as Haskins’ wife, Mary. She tries her best to be Barbara Hershey, but uiltimately, she’s given very little to do. Finally, Jon Voight turns in another good, although familiar, performance in makeup as a historical figure. I saw him in this film and was immediately reminded of him as Cosell in Ali and FDR in Pearl Harbor. His performance here falls somewhere short of the former, yet better than the latter.

The real untold story of Glory Road was the Miners’ successful Motown review, Los Temptations…

Even if you didn’t know the story of the ’66 Miners, yet considering what type of movie this is, you pretty much know how it’s going to turn out, which is the 800 pound gorilla that inspirational sports movies have on their backs. Also they have a tendency to get way over sappy and this movie manages to avoid that for the most part, even injecting quite a bit more humor than you’d expect. Glory Road tells a story that should be told and does it quite well.

My two favorite teams: Louisville and whoever kicks the shit out of Kentucky. Go Miners!! WOO HOO!!

The Package

The movie looks good and sounds good: widescreen, Dolby Digital, yadda yadda. The cover artwork isn’t really the greatest, in fact it quite stinks. But what the story about the package is is the shload of extras packed onto the disc. First off, there’s two commentaries, one by Gartner and Lord Bruckheimer and another by screenwriters Cleveland and Gilois. Both are fairly solid, with the edge probably going to the former. There’s also about seven minutes of deleted scenes, including a surprise for one of the players who decides not to go on a frog hunt with the rest of the team, the Haskins’ getting busy on the hardwood, and a couple of more face opportunities with Voight as Rupp, one in a press conference and one with Haskins in an elevator after the game.

"…And starting for the Wildcrack…uh Wildcats…"

There’s also several featurettes, including Legacy of the Bear (13 minutes), which details the real life Haskins and includes commentaries from such notable Haskin’s disciples as Tim Floyd, Tim Hardaway, Antonio Davis, several players from the ’66 squad, and others such as Bruckheimer and Pat Riley. Surviving Practice (four minutes) shows the rigors of a Haskins practice session courtesy of former UTEP player and NBA great Tim Hardaway; and the quite good In Their Own Words: Remembering 1966 (22 minutes) gives the skinny on the whole real life story of that pivotal season. Finally, there’s a 2-minute Alicia Keys video for the theme song, “Sweet Music.” All told, a lot of stuff to keep sports and / or movie fans busy.

"The number of times I managed to not shoot a wad in the waterfall scene in Stealth…"

8.0 out of 10