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"The Greatest Game Ever Played" Movie Review

"Greatest Game" Proves Golf Isn't the Most Engaging Spectator Sport

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Shia LaBeouf stars in "The Greatest Game Ever Played"

© Walt Disney Pictures
This may be a movie about the greatest game of golf ever played, but "The Greatest Game Ever Played" is definitely not one of the greatest sports movie ever made. For those who believe watching golf on TV is equivalent to spending the afternoon watching grass grow, this movie is not likely to alter your perception of the sport or up its entertainment value.

Actor Bill Paxton takes his second turn behind the camera to direct “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” the story of one of the greatest games of golf ever played (hence the movie’s title). This almost blow-by-blow account of the 1913 U.S. Open features “Holes” star Shia LaBeouf as amateur golfer and all-around good guy, Francis Ouimet. A natural whose family home was located on the edge of a fairway, Francis spent his childhood imitating British golfer Harry Vardon (played in the film by Stephen Dillane) and longing to follow in his footsteps.

As a youngster, Francis had the opportunity to meet Vardon, one of his heroes and a man whose life almost paralleled Francis’. Both came from humble beginnings and both had to overcome class issues in order to compete in the sport they loved. Years after meeting one of golf’s greatest, Francis would fittingly face off with Vardon in the final round of the 1913 U.S. Open.

The film version of that historic round of golf closely follows the game around the course and features some terrific golf footage. And if you’re able to stay interested in the movie long enough to get there, “The Greatest Game Ever Played” does manage to pull you into the showdown during the last half hour of the film. Unfortunately what you have to sit through to get to that point just simply isn’t compelling entertainment.

With authentic looking period costumes and hairstyles, the film does effectively transport audiences back to the early part of last century. But where it fails is in breathing any life into the characters. With the exception of a spunky 10 year-old caddy, not a single character in this film jumps out or lingers with you after the credits roll.

Moving at a pace that might actually be slower than a snail’s, “The Greatest Game Ever Played” does benefit from great supporting performances by Josh Flitter, a scene-stealing firecracker of an actor, and the dependable Stephen Dillane. Elias Koteas is decent however totally wasted in the one-dimensional role of Francis Ouimet’s tough-as-nails father.

“The Greatest Game Ever Played” plays out like any number of Disney family movies from the past five decades - not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. It basically just means the good guys remain pure and decent, the bad guys learn a lesson and change their ways, and everything turns out okay at the end. And if that’s the kind of story you’re aching to sit through, then “The Greatest Game” may be just your sort of film. However, even for those of us who just want to watch a peaceful, family friendly movie, the slow pace and lack of any real connection to the characters amounts to a very unfulfilling experience.

GRADE: C

"The Greatest Game Ever Played" was directed by Bill Paxton and is rated PG for some brief mild language.

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