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Glory Road

Not Exactly Bound for Glory

With the recent success of films like Miracle and Remember the Titans (not to mention Dodgeball), it's no surprise that an aspiring inspirational tale of underdog basketball players would eventually find its way on to the big screen. The Jerry Bruckheimer produced Glory Road hits theaters hoping to fill a void that probably should have been left unfilled.

Glory Road tells story of passionate basketball coach, Don Haskins and his Cinderella story team that took the NCAA title. In 1966, Haskins stumbles on to his first Division I NCAA coaching opportunity at Texas Western University, a small underwhelming university in El Paso, Texas.

Haskins jumps at this "golden" opportunity only to find out his team is comprised of the athletically challenged and his recruiting budget is woefully thin. Undeterred, Haskins thinks outside the box and starts recruiting African-American basketball players (an unheard of tactic in the racially divisive 1960s).

In short order, Haskins' team of pretenders evolves into contenders. Along the way, the team encounters racism, violence, and a myriad of other obstacles that don't seem nearly daunting or compelling enough at the end of the day.

The story has the potential to be very engaging, but whether it was screenwriter Chris Cleveland's writing or James Gartner's underwhelming directing, Glory Road doesn't do the true story justice. What we are left with in Glory Road is a less than glorious film that often feels fragmented, half baked, and formulaic.

It seems that no one could decide exactly what to focus on in Glory Road. Is it a story about Don Haskins? Is it a story about African-American basketball players overcoming racism? Is it a story about a team coming together? Is it a love story? At times, Glory Road seems to be all and none of the above. Nothing is really fully developed or fleshed out. Plot threads are spawned and disappear into the ether.

On the upside, Josh Lucas puts forth a fiery and passionate performance as Coach Don Haskins. Lucas brazenly browbeats his players for their lack of effort and intensity. He mercilessly puts them through the gauntlet in trying to get them to play as a cohesive unit. Not too surprisingly, Coach Haskins is the only character in the film that is even marginally developed.

The remainder of the cast is essentially just an assemblage of "types" and, accordingly, they go through the motions. You have the misunderstood, but exceptionally talented player. There's the obligatory short fused, physically dominant player. Rounding things out, there's a player who's gifted, but not living up to his potential. We know this formula far too well and Glory Road doesn't even try to innovate.

With any luck, Glory Road will fail to inspire at the box office and force studio executives to explore other, less well trodden territory. While I really wanted to get choked up and misty at the climactic finale of Glory Road, I just wasn't invested enough in the story or the characters to work up any tears. If you're jonesing for inspiring basketball flicks, stick to Hoosiers.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars