The Greatest Game Ever Played is by all means the feel-good movie of the season. Audiences will leave the theater feeling inspired by this true-life piece of history but wouldn’t necessarily recommend the movie to their friends.
The Greatest Game stars Shia LaBeouf as Francis Ouimet, a blue-collar caddy for the local golf club. The film tells the true story of how this underdog goes to beat all odds to win the 1913 U.S. Open and becomes only the second American to do so. One of the odds Francis has to beat is his own father, Arthur Ouimet (Elias Koteas). His father does not approve of Francis’ desire to compete in such a high-class event and constantly expresses the need to “know your place in society and earn an honest wage.” This theme of “knowing your place” resides throughout the movie in seemingly every person he meets, save for his mother, Mary (Marnie McPhail), and some of the players he caddies for.
Growing up as a caddy, young Francis learns to love the game of golf. He idolizes golf legends such as Harry Vardon, played by Shephen Dillane. Francis even gets a chance to meet Vardon as a child, and this begins his obsession with golf. Francis finally enters into an amateur competition. To do this, he must resign as a caddy and promise his father that if he loses, he will give up golf and earn an honest wage. Well, Francis loses and keeps his promise, at least for a while. However, he was given the chance of a lifetime: the chance to play in the 1913 U.S. Open. The rest is history; he defeats legend and idol Harry Vardon to win the Open.
Although the story is based on a piece of history, the movie doesn’t seem to have much of a plot. About 95 percent of the film is set on the golf course, leaving some very slow moments. Because so much of the movie is on the golf course, audiences are left feeling as though they are watching the event on ESPN. The audience is left wondering why his father doesn’t approve, why some key golf players give him a chance and sponsored him, among other things.
The only comedic relief comes from Francis’ 10-year-old caddy, Eddie Lowery, played by Josh Flitter. His “you-got-a-problem?” attitude along with his one-liners on the course, such as “easy peasy lemon squeasy,” break up the tension and seriousness of the film.
The acting is mediocre. LaBeouf’s monotone voice and motionless face make some of the more intense parts of the film unbelievable. The best action without a doubt is by Flitter. He is excellent and carries much of the movie on his young shoulders with some laugh-out-loud moments.
This is a great movie to bring the kids to, and despite some slow, boring moments and too much time on the course, the film does its job and lifts viewers’ spirits. Although the audience seemed to enjoy it, it is doubtful if any of them would buy it or see it again.
m Rating: C+
m Drama, PG, Running time: 120 min.