Francis Ouimet is a caddy
At a Massachusetts club,
Where he’s used to high-brow members
Giving him a haughty snub.
Francis witnessed Harry Vardon
When the caddy was a boy.
Meeting such a famous golfer
Made golf something to enjoy.
Over years, the lad has practiced;
Now it seems he has a chance
For a coming tournament,
But he’s scorned at in advance.
Even Francis’ father makes him
Swear to stop golf if he fails.
When he doesn’t qualify,
Francis sadly enters sales.
Two years later, he again
Is offered up a chance to play.
This time it’s the U.S. Open,
But he answers with a nay.
Yet, when Francis quickly hears
That Harry Vardon will compete,
He decides to break his promise
And to challenge the elite.
When his caddy cannot come,
Young Eddie Lowery volunteers.
Though he’s just a chubby kid,
He pep-talks Francis through his fears.
Harry Vardon quickly moves
With friend Ted Ray into the lead.
Many people think, with them,
A win for England’s guaranteed.
But the snobs who watch and judge
Are soon surprised by Francis’ gains.
In the end, he does quite well;
In fact, a three-way tie remains!
Vardon calms his own unease
Of being good enough to play.
Ray thereafter “drops the ball,”
And two will putt the final day.
Francis and his hero vie
To win the title, calm the dread,
And, upon the final hole,
Francis wins one stroke ahead.
Everybody’s shocked but cheered;
An amateur has won such fame!
Francis’ father now respects
His son’s success and love of the game.

The Greatest Game Ever Played is typical underdog sports fare, which manages to still be quite unique because, rather than the usual football or basketball or baseball story, it’s about everyone’s favorite sport, golf. Directed by Bill Paxton, this film offers an interesting view of the game, often using different camera angles, such as presenting a putt through the “eyes” of the ball. Plus, the production values and cinematography recreate 1913 much more convincingly than the effects-laden past of Peter Jackson’s King Kong.

The acting is also wonderful, particularly Shia LaBeouf as Francis Ouimet, proving that, yes, he can indeed act. His relationships with his parents, Eddie, his wealthy girlfriend Sarah, and his hero/rival Harry Vardon are all well-developed and touching in different ways. While his father’s disparagement of his talent is disconcerting (I guess he thought only things that make money are worthwhile), his final come-around at the end is utterly touching and brought a tear to my VC’s eye. While the continual arrogance of the aristocrats who insist golf is strictly a “gentlemen’s game” gets old fast, I appreciate the way the filmmakers humanized Francis’ opponents Harry Vardon and Ted Ray. They could have easily been made unlikable competitors, but both were given their own eccentricities and troubles that make the audience root for them as well.

It isn’t the most exciting film, but golf isn’t the most exciting game either. This, along with Tin Cup, makes up pretty much the entirety of The Golf Channel’s movie lineup, but Greatest Game is not just a great golf movie; it’s a great movie, period.

Best line: (Harry Vardon, to the head pompous “gentleman”) “Let me tell you something. I came here to win a trophy. And on the face of it Ted Ray or I should carry it off. Not for you, not for England, but for sheer bloody pride at being the best, that’s why we do this. And if Mr. Ouimet wins tomorrow, it’s because he’s the best, because of who he is. Not who his father was, not how much money he’s got, because of who he bloody is! And I’ll thank you to remember that. And I’ll thank you to show the respect a gentleman gives as a matter of course.”

Artistry: 7
Characters/Actors: 6
Entertainment: 6
Visual Effects: 5
Originality: 4
Watchability: 6
Other (brief language and early slowness): -3
TOTAL: 31 out of 60

Tomorrow: #304: The Castle of Cagliostro

© 2014 S. G. Liput