A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this film includes harsh language and imagery emerging from U.S. racism during the 1960s. Characters argue about terms used (spoken and written, in letters and graffiti) include the n-word, "Negro," "colored," and "honky." The Confederate flag appears in multiple shots during the final game. Characters' arguments over race and their on-court competitions lead to shoving and fighting. Some of the game footage shows minor rough play. Players sneak off to drink at a bar and appear at practice the next day hung over. Some white fans at games on the road throw trash at the integrated team as they enter and leave the court. One black player is beaten by a few white thugs, leaving him bloodied and bruised.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
Set in the 1960s and based on a true story, GLORY ROAD follows Don Haskins (Josh Lucas), who takes a new job coaching the NCAA team at Texas Western University in El Paso. Don appears to "get" racism and specifically, racist violence against his players. He stays focused on the game, seeing winning as the best way to "instruct" opponents. That is, until he learns he's been getting hate mail at home which his wife has been hiding it from him. Meanwhile, the players deal with the fact that one team member is beaten up in a diner bathroom as they bus through the South. Haskins' most and profound act is to start five black players at the finals, the first time in NCAA history. The starters feels like they've landed "in Bonanza" when they reach Texas, and the white players marvel at the first black people they've ever seen. At the '66 NCAA finals, Haskins' Miners face the much better funded, all Caucasian University of Kentucky champions. They're coached by the unfortunately named Adolph Rupp (Jon Voight), whose exasperation shots feature confederate flags in the background.
Is it any good?
Formulaic but well-crafted, Glory Road features a hard-driving coach who inspires his underdog team to athletic and moral victories. James Gartner's movie includes all the expected tricks of the genre, from vintage '60s soundtrack and heart-pounding court action to excellent performances and heartfelt lessons underlined by teary eyes in close-up.
The film spends little time considering anything other than the team dynamics. This leaves the 1960s context (the Vietnam war, the Black Panthers) to TV images and brief comments. That's not to say that these framing devices are ineffective, but they are occasionally set alongside trivial jokey bits. The film also includes enough images of hard violence to underline at least some of the costs for the Miners, not to mention their less well looked after peers. Rousing, manipulative, and predictable, the movie knows its business.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about racism as it is presented here and how it works now. How do disparities in opportunities and hopes result in resentment on all sides? You might also talk about the responsibilities for taking up such struggles: How does the coach engage his players' fight as his own? How does his wife share his commitment? How can sports help to address social and political problems?
- In theaters: January 13, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: June 6, 2006
- Cast: Derek Luke, Josh Lucas, Sam Jones III
- Director: James Gartner
- Studio: Buena Vista
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, History
- Run time: 106 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: for racial issues including violence and epithets, and momentary language.
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