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Cinema Signal: It's got numerous flaws & weaknesses which will be forgiven or ignored by a limited audience.

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(Discounted Paperback (with CD) from Amazon)
. "The Greatest Game Ever Played"

This is another one of those over-hyped titles that publicity departments foist upon an unwary public. Haven't these people ever heard that hyperbole is a bad and dumb thing that should never be used to sell tickets?

It may be a true story of a golf game that went down in history, yes. But the Greatest Game Ever Played? Phooey! Beautifully mounted? Yes. Deeply flawed? Yes, yes. Does it work as a family film? Well, it conforms exceedingly close to Disney moral standards which makes it an exemplary film that can be watched with the kids in the living room. No cussing; no blood, no violence (well, there's a punch to the face). Is the leading character, Francis Ouimet (Shia LaBeouf), pure as the driven golf ball? Count on it!

The biographical history lesson, directed by actor Bill Paxton, hews to the mold of many a sports story. Folks, you don't need to see it or read a synopsis to know that our hero and/or his team will rise to the possibilities of fame, fortune and a championship in the first act; have it slip away in the 2nd, and resurrect his chances in time for a celebration before you can go get another box of pop corn. That's not what makes this a poor exemplar of the genre.

In the London of 1913, class divisions were clear and unbroken. There were the privileged lords and ladies, and there were the poor working class folks who cleaned up for them. In this case, young Francis Ouimet, growing up in a house directly across the road from the best golf course in the kingdom, idolizing his hero, the undefeated Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane), managed to get a job as a caddy.

Without seeing why, several sponsors appear, who support the kid as an amateur golfer in the upcoming trials. There must have been reasons he'd be so singled out but the film gives us no clue. There's even a very rich girl, Sarah Wallis (Peyton List), who takes a shine to young Ouilet, apparently intuiting the potentials of this pretender.

When he loses to Sarah's snobby bro', the requirement of act one (little early in the narrative) are satisfied. Act two has him working in a menial job until he's invited to represent England as an amateur player in the famed US Open. At first he turns it down. And, when he goes for it, there are a few scenes comprising a montage with his mentor who seems to have the spiritual presence of a zen master.

But it's a drop in the bucket as far as showing the discipline, the training, the application of a trainer's guidance; so, one is hard put to understand the specific reasons why he reached such a point that he'd be invited to play in this major Open and taken to America in the company of the best golfers of his time, including his idol! He just suits up with the little money he's made, and plays. The whole foundation for the destiny in front of him is the simple fact that this film is focused on him.

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The DVD
SPECIAL FEATURES:
  • A View From the Gallery: On the Set of The Greatest Game Ever Played.
  • Two legends and the Greatest Game
  • From Caddie to Champion: Francis Quimet
  • Audio Commentary with director Bill Paxton
  • Audio commentary with Author, screnwriter and producer Mark Frost
    The Blu-ray Edition DVD

    The Soundtrack
  • I don't know about you, but what was so special about the man and his golf game is essential detail. Rocky didn't just get in the ring. Nor did the "Million Dollar Baby" (Hilary Swank). Their workouts and development were fierce, and much footage devoted to convince us of the work they put in to achieve their goal.

    With almost no such effort demonstrated, the absence of nurturing and developing of an athlete made me think that our hero isn't the only one who should be branded as an amateur. I don't want to just take their word for it! Show me what was so special about this guy's game!! It's called moving pictures. Mark Foster adapted the screenplay from his own book and should have known better; and third-time director Paxton shows he's a third-rate talent behind the camera. La Beouf is, at least, sympathetic and dedicated.

    Which is why it works fine as a safe, feel-good, two-hour family film. I would think no real golfer would want to give it the time, however, given what was considered irrelevant, but you never know.

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                                          ~~  Jules Brenner  
    


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    Shia Labeouf as golf phenom Francis Ouilet.
    He may not have the accent but he has the swing.

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