Movie Review
The Greatest Game Ever Played
Greatest Game Ever... poster
By Craig Younkin     Published October 2, 2005
US Release: September 30, 2005

Directed by: Bill Paxton
Starring: Shia LaBeouf

Running Time: 121 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $15,331,289
Way too long, boring, and joyless, especially {for} the younger set that Disney seems to be aiming at.
"The Greatest Game Ever Played" is what I like to refer to as a straight-golfing movie. Adam Sandler doesn't beat up Bob Barker, Rodney Dangerfield doesn't dance to "Journey,? and Bill Murray and the gopher are nowhere to be found. All we have is putting, birdies, and drivers. The game is not easily brought to the screen, and after all how many of you remember how much money "Legend of Bagger Vance" made or who was even in "Bobby Jones: A Stroke of Genius"? I can just see the golf enthusiasts now reading this review and saying that "this guy hates golf,? but before you stop reading, let me just say that the problems of "Greatest Game" go far deeper than a game that doesn't seem film-able.

The movie stars Shia LaBeouf as Francis Ouimet, a Massachusetts golf caddy in love with the game but not allowed to participate on the green because of his economic stature. As a young boy Francis got to meet his hero Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane), a professional who teaches Francis how to hold a club. The meeting means a lot to Francis and encourages him to practice on the green every day behind the backs of the course owners. Francis becomes a natural, even attracting the attention of two of the club members. When he shoots an 81 on the toughest course in New England, they see that this kid really has something and so they sponsor him for the amateur golf tournament.

Harry Vardon also figures into this story, as we see him a couple years later going back to London carrying with him his championship trophy. He comes in the hopes of gaining acceptance to the most prestigious club in London. It would be a fantastic achievement for him considering that no pro has ever been asked to join before, nor will they ever. The only thing waiting for Harry, to his disappointment, is an offer to work there. Harry, much like Francis, comes from a working class background. His earliest memory is of four men tearing down his house to make room for the golf links, which they tell him he will never play on because he is not a gentleman. The British want the U.S Open championship cup back on their soil, and the film's main villain, Lord Northcliffe (Peter Firth), wants Harry to win it for them in the 1913 tournament. Francis is also asked to join the tournament, setting up a match between student and legend.

The movie is slowly paced and way too long at two hours, especially considering the story has been done countless times before and makes every attempt to simplify the battle of the classes so that younger audiences will understand it. The poor wear plain clothes, stick up for their friends, and follow their dreams. The rich all wear top hats and extra large mustaches, smoke cigars, and act as pompously as possible. The movie doesn't have characters; it has stereotypical caricatures. It also has a lot of family melodrama. Francis' immigrant father, played by Elias Koteas, supplies much of it. Koteas glumly walks through the movie with a heavy Italian accent shooting down Francis' dream because it will never make him any money. Of course later he will come around, and of course he is more of a clich? than an actual character.

Director Bill Paxton incorporates the usual tricks to making the golf games look interesting. He uses the aerial view of the ball flying through the air, gets us into the golfer's mindset of tuning everything out, and how they judge the length of the green to the hole. There is a lot of tech work going on here, so much so that it diverts from the actual game. Much like other films of this nature, a raucous crowd rooting for the underdog and a large orchestra are also used to tug at the heartstrings. Only the film goes on for so long and is so tedious that the only thing those things tugged at were my last remaining ounces of patience.

Even LeBeouf doesn't seem to be having fun. The young actor is usually very energetic and funny, but here he can't make an impact on our emotions. He just looks bored and depressed, as does the movie audience. "The Greatest Game Ever Played" is trying to be a serious drama, but instead of characters we get stereotypes and clich?s. There is also an overemphasis on glumness in this movie but that's about all the emotion you're going to get. This movie is way too long, boring, and joyless to be watched by anyone, especially the younger set that Disney seems to be aiming at.
Craig's Grade: D+
Craig's Overall Grading: 340 graded movies
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