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Friday, January 13, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

"Glory Road": The lineup that changed the game forever

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2 stars


Showtimes and trailer

"Glory Road," with Josh Lucas, Derek Luke, Mehcad Brooks, Emily Deschanel, Al Shearer, Tatyana Ali, Jon Voight. Directed by James Gartner, from a screenplay by Christopher Cleveland, Bettina Gilois and Gregory Allen Howard. 106 minutes. Rated PG for racial issues including violence and epithets, and mild language. Several theaters.

OK, so you really don't need me to tell you about "Glory Road" if you've ever seen a sports movie before. Just get out your sports-movie-cliché checklist and a pencil.

The intense coach (Josh Lucas) who delivers inspiring speeches and waves his arms around a lot? Check. The soaring music, looming up extra-loud during every dramatic moment as if God had a stereo system that went up to 11? Check. The motley crew of athletes who find an unlikely brotherhood together, including a tough guy who softens and an ailing guy with a big heart? Check. The Big Game, whose outcome is in doubt up to the last second? Check, please.

All of this is a shame, really, because "Glory Road" is based on a fascinating story that should have trumped any cliché. Coach Don Haskins made history in 1966 when, in the NCAA basketball championships, he fielded the first-ever all-African-American starting lineup. Under his leadership Texas Western University actively sought out African-American players for scholarships. In the 1960s South, this was radical — and the championship game, televised nationally, brought a new visibility to black college athletes.

"Glory Road," however, gives us absolutely no insight into why Haskins was inspired to do this. Director James Gartner seems more interested in showing us bizarre camera angles (a conversation on the gym floor, say, shot from up in the top bleachers) than in helping his actors to convey actual people. Instead, they're all symbols, and therefore not particularly interesting. Lucas' Haskins is energetic but enigmatic, all speeches and platitudes. It's not the actor's fault; the screenplay (credited to several writers) never lets a real man peek through.

There are a few moments in "Glory Road" that resonate — in particular, the sickeningly ugly treatment received by the black players while traveling in the South — but they almost seem to be in a different movie.

At the end, we're given brief real-life updates on Coach Haskins and the men of the 1966 team. They well deserve the belated recognition, but it's a shame they couldn't be honored by a better movie.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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