Thursday, Jan. 12, 2006 05:51 am
Sports flick follows same ol tired and tattered formula
I wish that I could report that Glory Road is a fresh new addition to the sports-movie genre, an innovative piece of work that surprised me from the first second to the last. I can’t. This family-pleaser, directed by James Gartner, is strictly by-the-numbers, containing all of the elements we’ve come to expect in sports films. In other words, it’s tired and tattered. Josh Lucas stars as Don Haskins, who took a coaching job at tiny Texas Western College and guided the school’s basketball team, the Miners, to an NCAA championship in 1966. Winning a national title is, of course, remarkable in itself, but the way in which Haskins pulled it off was, at the time, almost incredible. With little money to work with, he recruited young African-American players whom other institutions had passed by because of their race. Cobbling together a ragtag group of rural Texas cagers and urban hoopsters from New York City and Gary, Ind., Haskins assembled a team that, emphasizing defense, marched to a 28-1 record, stunning nearly every opponent they encountered. Dominating as they did for nearly the entire season, the team provided little tension on the court for the filmmakers to work with. Instead, Glory Road focuses on the interactions between the teammates, who initially distrust each other; their relationship with Haskins, whom they hate for pushing them so hard; and the turmoil the team encountered each time they played on the road. Of course, as the sports-movie formula dictates, the players’ success on the court solves all of their problems. In winning, they learn to respect each other and their coach, and their opponents must acknowledge their efforts, albeit grudgingly. Lucas, though a capable actor, is miscast here; he is far too young for the role. His inspirational speeches, for example, seem to lack sincerity because he just doesn’t seem to have enough experience to relate the life lessons he passes on. Equally troubling is the quick pace at which Gartner presents the story. Although his fast-paced style is perfect for the exciting basketball sequences, it is ill suited for the film’s narrative passages. Characters and situations aren’t fully developed, and the film winds up playing like a Cliff Notes version of a sports saga rather than a fully realized story.