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Buena Vista Home Video presents

Glory Road (2006)

"I don't see color. I see quick. I see skill. And that's what you have. And that's what I'm putting on the court."- Coach Don Haskins (Josh Lucas)

Stars: Josh Lucas, Jon Voight
Other Stars: Derek Luke, Emily Deschanel
Director: James Gartner

MPAA Rating: PG for racial issues including violence and epithets, and mild language
Run Time: 01h:57m:54s
Release Date: 2006-06-06
Genre: sports

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ A-A-B B+


DVD Review

I live just up the interstate from El Paso, and the folks in that sprawling Texas metropolis still speak with reverence about Coach Don Haskins and the inspirational Miners of Texas Western College. Not only did the school's men's basketball team overcome improbable odds to topple perennial powerhouse Kentucky in the finals of the 1966 NCAA tournament, but during a time when most Southern schools wouldn't even consider recruiting black players, Coach Haskins made a bold racial statement by fielding an exclusively African-American squad in the championship game. Glory Road faithfully chronicles the Miners' magical season, and how it literally changed the face of college hoops forever.

Much more than a standard David versus Goliath yarn, Glory Road gains its strength by depicting the hard-fought, meaningful battles the Miners fought both on the court and off. Director James Gartner, in his feature film debut, takes time to introduce and develop the black players—a group of talented, dedicated athletes—and examines how they first stared down adversity from their own teammates, and later from other prejudiced programs and fans around the country. The Miners endured physical threats and attacks, as well as epithet- and garbage-slinging fans to play a game and prove a point, and it took an upset victory in America's biggest college basketball showcase to make the country sit up and take notice.

A successful girls high school coach, Haskins (played with rugged intensity by Josh Lucas) is brought to Texas Western (now the University of Texas at El Paso, or UTEP) by an athletic department hoping merely to fill a staff vacancy. The school treats basketball like a forgotten stepchild, and as a result, the program the brash new coach inherits is in a shambles—fans are disinterested, the stadium is in disrepair, and, for lack of better accommodations, Haskins, his wife, and three young sons must live in the men's dorm and supervise its residents. The coach, however, is determined to build a competitive team and put Texas Western on the college basketball map. Unable to compete against the recruiting juggernauts of Duke, Kansas, and Carolina, Haskins pursues the talent those racially biased schools won't touch. He and his staff travel to the Chicago slums and the South Bronx, collecting hard-working, dedicated kids whose only dream is to dribble, shoot, and score.

Basketball games and practices comprise much of the film, but Glory Road veers off the well-trod sports movie path to concentrate on more important issues. By recounting the injustices and hurdles the team faces in a straightforward, non-manipulative manner, Glory Road avoids the cloying preachy tone that afflicts so many other "message" pictures. That said, the most riveting part of the movie may come during the closing credits, when the real Coach Haskins and several members of his championship team (as well as Kentucky alum Pat Riley) recall and reflect on that milestone season.

Glory Road faithfully tells the Miners' story, but for the sake of drama blurs the lines of truth on a couple of occasions. First of all, the script leads us to believe Haskins recruited his team and marched them all the way to the championship in his first season as coach, when, in fact, the victory was the culmination of years of hard work. The film also minimizes the strides other schools made in integrating their sports teams, giving the false impression that Texas Western was just about the only college to put blacks on the court. Other schools started as many as four African-American players in various games, but Haskins was the first coach to start five, and he did it on the sport's biggest stage.

Lucas (who gained 35 pounds for his role) exudes charisma as Haskins, highlighting the coach's drive, competitive spirit, and commitment to his players' development and well-being. Reminiscent of the great macho stars of yore, Lucas is both a man's man and hearththrob—his natural swagger and bad boy grin make him an electric screen presence both sexes can admire, and he never turns soft and sappy when he must transmit the film's affecting racial message. To support him, Gartner has assembled a marvelous "team" of ball players who can also act, which helps lend the film an essential realistic flavor. And though Jon Voight looks far from realistic in his prosthetic makeup, he turns himself into a dead ringer for Kentucky Wildcat coach Adolph Rupp, perfectly capturing the man's inimitable mannerisms and speech patterns, and steering clear (most of the time) of caricature.

Glory Road isn't the best sports movie ever made; hey, it's not even the best basketball movie ever made (it can't touch Hoosiers), but it scores nonetheless. Exciting, entertaining, and filled with heart and—more importantly—soul, it captures the period's turbulence, and proves what a huge difference one stubborn, passionate, and color-blind man can make.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The widescreen anamorphic transfer maintains the film's gritty, washed out look, but no extraneous defects, such as nicks and scratches, accentuate it. Colors stay true, however, contrast is good, and black levels are rich and deep.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0French, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The DD 5.1 track is a bit subtle for a rousing sports movie, but it covers all the bases. Dialogue is always clear and easy to comprehend, the music score swells appropriately during dramatic moments, and the crowd noise nicely envelops, helping to immerse us in the on-court action.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish with remote access
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Eight Below, Goal! The Dream Begins, The Shaggy Dog, Annapolis, Stick It
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
3 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by director James Gartner and producer Jerry Bruckheimer; writers Chris Cleveland and Bettina Gilois
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: A solid smattering of supplements enhances the disc, beginning with a pair of worthwhile audio commentaries. The first features director James Gartner, an engaging speaker who easily holds interest throughout the track. (Producer Jerry Bruckheimer also chimes in on occasion, but his participation is so minimal, one wonders why he's there at all.) Gartner discusses, among other things, the challenges of shooting within the confines of a gym, and the harsh, gritty look he chose for the film. He also claims Glory Road is not a sports movie per se, outlines the casting process (and how he ended up using athletes who could act instead of actors who claimed they could play ball), and fondly remembers his various interactions with Coach Haskins.

The second commentary features husband-and-wife writing team Chris Cleveland and Bettina Gilois, who offer more background on Haskins and the players who comprised the Miners championship team. They also provide an in-depth look at the writing process, touch upon the few liberties they took with the facts and why, and voice their long-standing commitment to telling Coach Haskins' story.

Although both commentaries address several intriguing deleted scenes, only four (totaling a scant six minutes) are included on the disc, and they add little to the film's fabric. Much more interesting are a quartet of featurettes, especially In Their Own Words—Remembering 1966, in which the members of the milestone Texas Western team reflect on each other, the turbulent racial tension of the time, Coach Haskins' decision to put forth an all-black lineup in the NCAA championship game, their reaction to winning the title, and the backlash from both whites and blacks the following year. The 22-minute piece is simply produced, but the words of these brave, articulate men resonate, adding perspective and personal intimacy to the film's drama.

Legacy of the Bear is an absorbing 12-minute testimonial to the beloved Texas Western coach, and combines interviews with Haskins, his wife Mary, and many of his former players (including NBA star Tim Hardaway) with clips from the film. We hear about Haskins' brutal practices and tough work ethic, and how his brusque demeanor masked a big, caring heart that touched all who worked and played for him. Surviving Practice runs four-and-a-half minutes and examines how the grueling drills and endless hours of repetition helped shape the winning Miners team. In addition to extensive comments from Hardaway and remarks from director Gartner and producer Bruckheimer, clips of Haskins himself running one of his legendary practices on the film set give us a taste of the coach in his element and his uncompromising pursuit of excellence. A rough (and seemingly truncated) video of the Alicia Keys song, Sweet Music, as well as a slew of trailers, complete the extras package.

Extras Grade: B+

Final Comments

A substantive sports movie? Or a thoughtful drama with an athletic backdrop? You make the call. Yet however you categorize it, Glory Road tells its racially charged tale with sensitivity and insight, while supplying enough exciting basketball scenes to satisfy the most diehard hoops junkie. A solid transfer and plenty of extras make this winning story of winners a slam-dunk for all ages and audiences.

David Krauss 2006-09-01