Written by Mark Frost
Directed by Bill Paxton
Running Time: 2:00
for some brief mild language.
The Greatest Game Ever Played is certainly not the greatest movie ever made, nor even the best sports movie ever made. It's a slow moving and uninspiring film that had a solid cast, but an uninteresting story.
In the early 1900s, golf was a gentlemen's game. In the UK, Harry Vardon grew up poor but grew to be the greatest golfer in the world. And even then he was denied entry into exclusive country clubs because of his upbringing. Over in Boston, young Francis Ouimet grew up caddying for the rich folks at the country club across the street. Along the way he became a fine golfer himself, but he was never accepted at the club. When by chance he is offered the opportunity to play for the U.S. Open Championship against a world class field, including Harry Vardon, Francis jumps at the chance, against the wishes of his father. Since this is a Disney movie, based on a true story, it's not giving away much to say that against all odds, the plucky young amateur shows those rich folks a thing or two about how to play golf and more importantly, how to live life.
The biggest issue I had with Greatest Game was that there was no one to
root against. In most sports movies, based on real life or otherwise,
there's someone or some team you want to have lose. Miracle is the best
example, since back in the 70s and 80s everyone hated the Russians. But
in Greatest Game, all you had was good guys and more good guys. Francis
was a good guy and we wanted (and knew) he was going to win, but his only
real antagonist was what, his father? Himself? Harry Vardon, who could
have and probably should have been the anti-hero, was in fact, the mirror
image of Frances, so even if he had won the match, it would have been OK.
The only people who resembled bad guys were the club owners who told
Francis (and Harry) that he would never be good enough to play. But they
didn't really try that hard to stop him and anytime one of them said
anything, they were quickly put in their place by someone else. So there
was no compelling dramatic quality to the movie. Yes we knew Francis was
going to win, but there could have been someone to cheer against.
Throwing in a bunch of special effects does not make up for a lack of
drama. There was this annoying thunder music that would play before every
effect and after a while it got to be too much. Harry making everything
but himself and the hole disappear, Francis focusing in on the green, the
ball flying into the camera... it was all nice, the first time they showed
it. The second, third, fourth, etc. times were over-the-top and trying to
create fake drama. Maybe the story wasn't good enough. Maybe they could
have found a better golf story to tell. I think that may have been
another problem. It is golf after all. Today, unless Tiger Woods is
involved, people don't seem to care about golf, unless you're a true fan.
I'm a sports fan, and I will watch golf, but if Tiger isn't in the final
couple of groups, I find I don't care as much. Take a couple of unknown
players from the turn of the century (last century) and why would I care
about them at all? There are times golf can be compelling, with this past
weekend's President's Cup being one of those times, where the outcome
wasn't determined until the last possible minute. But the movie didn't
have that much heart. And was it ironic that in a movie that was a lot
about segregation, there were no black people in the movie?
The actors all held up their end of the bargain. None of the performances
were outstanding, and certainly none of the actors were A-list, but they
all did their jobs. The highlight of the movie without question was Josh Flitter as Eddie, the caddie for Francis. He was very cute and had all
the funny lines, since as we all know, little kids can get away with
saying anything. Shia LaBeouf, in his first major starring role, was fine but never turned into the kind of character you felt something for. He was solid, but uninspiring. Whether that was him or whether it was the writing, we'll have to wait and see. The rest of the cast was the same; solid, but uninspiring. It's as if the director, actor Bill Paxton, wanted to make golf the focus and let the actors/characters slide into the background, rather than have their stories play a bigger role than the golf. If the movie had focused more on Francis and more on the hardships he had to face to get to the championship, we might have had a better movie. Rather what we got were two similar storylines going side by side, but not really showing how they worked hard to get to the same place at the same time.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, The Greatest Game Ever Played didn't have the drama needed to support this kind of film. It had the chance to become an uplifting film, but it never left the ground floor.
Netflix lets you rent, watch and return DVDs from home – Now from only a month!