THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED (Bill Paxton). 115 minutes. Opens Friday (September 30). For venues and times, see Movie Listings. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Hollywood has been busy pumping out sports films based on real-life underdogs in releases like Miracle, The Rookie and the upcoming Glory Road. Now Disney gives us the painfully predictable golf story The Greatest Game Ever Played : working-class kid has talent, does good and Impresses The Hell Outta Everyone.
In what is generally considered the greatest moment in golf's history, 20-year-old novice Francis Ouimet (gently handled by Shia LaBeouf ) stunned the world when he entered and won the 1913 U.S. Open in his hometown. Accompanied by a smart-mouthed 10-year-old caddie ( Josh Flitter ) and competing against his childhood idol, Harry Vardon ( Stephen Dillane ), Francis strives for a place in the annals of the game.
With a touch of humour and some brilliantly shot sequences, director Bill Paxton manages to cut back the vomit factor enough to deliver a movie that sufficiently entertains even the stoic golf hater. In particular, Vardon's struggles with his health and reputation and with class divisions, plus a nicely segued bit on his friendship with burly Ted Ray ( Stephen Marcus ), nearly swipe poor Francis's nice little story right off the fairway.
Liking this movie takes some effort. You're forced to ignore the excessive CG effects, silly villains and a rah-rah score. But despite its imperfections, the film retains an innocence that makes it touchingly human.