Tuesday, June 20, 2006

THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED

Shia LaBeouf The Greatest Game Ever Played movie Directed by Bill Paxton
Starring Shia LaBeouf
Reviewed by Byron Merritt

THUMBS UP!

THUMBS UP FILM REVIEW RATING!

Watching a movie about a kid’s struggle to play golf I’d assumed would be about as appealing as sticking hot needles in my eyes. But I’d heard a few good things about THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED and found out that it was directed by Bill Paxton (ALIENS, 1986) so decided to give it a go. I ordered it from my online rental company and, to my additional horror once it arrived, discovered that it was a Disney film. Oh Lord, nooo! Not having anything else to watch, I swallowed my Mouseketeer bile and slid it into my DVD player.

Well, it ain’t too bad. Shia LaBeouf (HOLES, 2003) stars as 20-year-old Francis Ouimet, the historically amazing young man who had a knack for the game of golf and beat out two "veteran" British players (Harry Vardon and Ted Ray) for the U.S. Open, and did so using a preteen caddy with a loud personality but a love of the game.

There have been a lot of films made featuring golf at their cores and I’ve seen many of them. TIN CUP was probably my favorite. HAPPY GILMORE was funny but in a gruff, teenage sort of way. CADDYSHACK: ‘nough said. THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE was modestly entertaining. And now we have THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED.

Being "Disneyfied" the film takes this historical golfing event and puts a gushing feel-good face on it. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; just something you might want to brace yourself for. Francis is at odds with his father, who believes that golf is a waste of time and is outside their class. Francis and his family aren’t wealthy and struggle to get by. So the tensions get moved up a few notches as Francis and his father find themselves in the middle of a generation gap. There’s a love interest in a woman who’s waaaay beyond Francis’ means. And there’s the growing attraction of the down-and-out toward Francis as they read about his golfing success in the papers during the pre-Depression times.

The acting was okay. Nothing outstanding with the exception of Francis’ little caddy, Eddie Lowery (Josh Flitter, ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND) who steals almost every scene he’s in.

What made this film a success was how it was filmed. Cameras perched on top of golf balls as they’re hit. Special effects that make the crowds vanish and leave the golfer all alone on the fairway with nothing between him and the green. The slow-motion swings of these men and how clean they were. That’s what really helped move this flick along and didn’t linger on putts, bad lays, or other golfing intricacies that easily could put many watchers to sleep.

If you’re a Disney fan you’ll probably fall on your knees and give praise to such a high quality film. And even if you’re not a big bolster of the Mouse Man, you might find this to be a relative gem amongst their more overly-sweet works.


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