The Greatest Game Ever Played

Let's face it: Unless you're a fan of this venerable game, there are few spectator sports duller than golf. And good acting, lush locales and snazzy special effects can't disguise the fact that it's a profoundly uncinematic sport, not even in a movie about the first American to shatter the sport's long-standing class barrier. Raised directly across the street...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Let's face it: Unless you're a fan of this venerable game, there are few spectator sports duller than golf. And good acting, lush locales and snazzy special effects can't disguise the fact that it's a profoundly uncinematic sport, not even in a movie about the first American to shatter the sport's long-standing class barrier. Raised directly across the street from a tony Brookline, Mass., golf club, the closest young Francis Ouimet (Shia LaBeouf) can hope to come to playing the "gentleman's" sport is caddying for wealthy Brahmins; working-class boys simply don't golf. Few have felt the sting of exclusion as keenly as Ouimet's own father, French-born, working-class laborer Arthur Ouimet (Elias Koteas), who long ago learned his place in American society and made his peace with it. Arthur strongly advises that Francis do the same, but with his mother's (Marnie McPhail) tacit encouragement, Francis secretly practices his swing by candlelight and eagerly accepts when club member Ted Hastings (Justin Ashforth) pressures Francis to play in the National Amateur Championship to be held at the club the following month. The snobs can sniff all they like: According to the rules, all Francis needs to enter is the $50 fee and Hastings' sponsorship. But Francis' nerves get the better of him, and after an ignominious defeat he fulfills his promise to his father and quits golf altogether. The game's allure, however, proves too strong; in 1913, Hastings suggests the now 20-year-old Francis enter the exalted 18th U.S. Open Championship, and Francis again picks up his clubs. Winning is a long shot, but thanks to a few gruff pointers from his 10-year-old caddy, Eddie Lowery (Josh Flitter), a Damon Runyon kid who can barely see over a golf bag, Francis soon finds himself facing off against his hero: Harry "the Stylist" Vardon (Stephen Dillane), the British Open legend who overcame even stiffer class prejudice in his native Britain. Actor-turned-director Bill Paxton and screenwriter Mark Frost, who adapted the screenplay from his own best-selling account of the 1913 U.S. Open, remain so faithful to the facts that you sometimes feel like you're right there on the links, and unless you're a golf fanatic, that's not such a good thing. To help break the monotony, Frost relies on relentless digital effects; there are so many shots of giant golf balls whizzing toward the screen it looks like the film was meant to be projected in 3-D.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: PG
  • Review: Let's face it: Unless you're a fan of this venerable game, there are few spectator sports duller than golf. And good acting, lush locales and snazzy special effects can't disguise the fact that it's a profoundly uncinematic sport, not even in a movie about… (more)

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