"THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED"
by Kevin Carr
|| MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Shia LaBeouf as FRANCIS OUIMET
Stephen Dilane as HARRY VARDON
Peter Firth as LORD NORTHCLIFFE
Elias Koteas as ARTHUR OUIMET
Josh Flitter as EDDIE LOWERY
Studio: Walt Disney
Directed by: Bill Paxton
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I hate golf. I hate playing golf. I hate watching golf. I hate the whole golf attitude, and the clothes and the faux politeness. If Jesus Christ himself returned for the second coming and invited me out on the course to play a few rounds, I can't say I'd accept.
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This is not a popular attitude where I live in Columbus, Ohio - the home town of Jack Nicklaus and the site of the prestigious Memorial Tournament. The only sin worse in this town is to hate Buckeye football... which I do.
Every couple years, Hollywood attempts to make the ultimate golf film, but really the only people who are going to like these movies are fans of golf. If you’re not willing to stand in the rain during a major tournament, you’re gonna get bored with these movies.
I’ll admit, this is an inspiring story. Shia LaBeouf plays Francis Ouimet, an amateur player who cracks the U.S. Open and shows of the high society professionals. It’s a great tale of the underdog and overcoming the odds.
But it’s about golf. And I just can’t get past that.
Director Bill Paxton does his best to make the golf montages exciting, but there’s only so much you can do with crash zooms and POV shots of the ball sailing over the green. I mean, football can be exciting. Baseball can be exciting. Hockey, boxing, basketball, even roller skating all can be exciting. But golf? Snoozer!
There were some things about this film that really got under my skin in its initial release. First, I don’t have anything against Shia LaBeouf, but he’s had way too much exposure lately. Recently, I’ve been flipping through movies on cable, and I just can’t escape him – even when I forgot he was in the film. “I, Robot” – there he was. “Constantine” – there again. Even the wretched “Charlie’s Angels 2.” LaBeouf was great in “Even Stevens,” but give it a rest.
The second reason I wasn’t into this film is outlined pretty clearly in my opening paragraph. There was also a strong sense of “been there, done that” in terms of historical golf films. I never saw them, mind you, but I didn’t need to see “The Legend of Bagger Vance” or “Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius” to get the feel.
And then there was that golf thing again.
The DVD comes with a nice assortment of special features. There’s separate feature commentaries by Paxton and writer Mark Frost. Each covers a different aspect of the film with Paxton focusing on the big picture and Frost focusing more on the story behind the story and the history of the subject matter. There are two behind-the-scenes documentaries, one about the film and the other about the characters it’s about. Both are well made and interesting, especially if you don’t know the real story.
The one feature that got negative marks is an old television interview with Francis Ouimet. Made in the early 1960s, this is an excruciatingly boring piece of cinema looooong before the MTV generation. It’s a drawn-out interview with a man who isn’t very comfortable in front of the camera. Even when they say they’re going to recreate the 1913 U.S. Open, it only involves Ouimet and the interviewer strolling across a golf course, reminiscing.
Golf fans should unite and check this movie out. The Hollywood treatment usually gives these films a decent treatment. Even if you’re not a big fan of the game, it’s entertaining and uplifting. It’s only one to be avoided if you really hate the game itself.
Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (1.85:1), enhanced for 16x9 televisions. French language track. French subtitles. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.