There's a reason that clichés are clichés, particularly in the language of film. In short, they often work. It's the screenwriter's way of going to the well, and that's not always a bad thing.
Glory Road (rated PG for racial issues including violence and epithets, and momentary language) goes to the well, but it goes there with skill and aplomb, reaching for if not quite equaling other recent Disney sports fables like The Rookie, Miracle, and Remember the Titans in inspirational underdog entertainment.
The film is not without its problems, particularly in the "minor" details of fidelity to the historical record. But this is a Jerry Bruckheimer/Disney collaboration. One shouldn't attend the film expecting a history lesson.
A solid Josh Lucas plays Don Haskins, coach of the Texas Western men's basketball team. Mr. Haskins is a new coach at a small football school, and his nonexistent recruiting budget means that he's stuck with what he's got. Mr. Haskins leaps that obstacle by recruiting black players no one else wants-he finds them in inner-city schools and playing street ball in factory parking lots. He sees raw talent where others see players too dumb to carry a team.
Mr. Haskins leads his ragtag team (has there ever been a movie made about a team that wasn't ragtag?) to an improbable NCAA victory. His decision to start five black players-a first in NCAA history-is credited with fundamentally changing the game of college hoops.
Even without some cursory research into the history of the Texas Western Miners, most in the audience will sense that they're watching a truncated story that fudges the facts. Some good arguments can be made against this approach to filmmaking. But what Glory Road lacks in gritty realism, it makes up for in audience-pleasing competence.
The cast is excellent (particularly team leader Derek Luke), the court play well executed, and the fundamentals of any good sports movie-discipline, hard work, and teamwork-are firmly in place.