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The Greatest Game Ever Played
DVD disk
Apr 11, 2006 By: Quigles
The Greatest Game Ever Played order
Director:
Bill Paxton

Actors:
Shia LaBeouf
Stephen Dillane
Peter Firth

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
During the 1913 U.S. Open, a 20-year-old amateur golfer named Francis Ouimet went head to head with the reigning champion Harry Vardon.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
I have to admit, my initial reaction when I found out that Bill Paxton was following his awesome directorial debut FRAILTY with a movie about golf was, simply put, utter disappointment. You see, I'm not exactly a big sports film fanatic, especially when that movie involves something like golf. It's just not really my "thing". But lo and behold, I have once again been proved very wrong. This movie isn't outstanding by any means, but it is a very solid entry in the sagging "golf movie" genre (if you can even call that a genre).

The basic story of THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED may be true, but that doesn't stop it from being very formulaic. Everything is set perfectly in place: The kid with something to prove, the dad who's against it, the humorous side character, the good-looking love interest - all of it's there. However, there are also some minor differences. The biggest of which is that the lead character's main opponent is not only a good person, but he also gets a good amount of screen time, which allows the audience to connect with him as his character is developed. This aspect makes for a much less one-sided approach to the big golf match, and I really dug it. Besides, as the saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. And in the case of this movie, the filmmaking is so good that you shouldn't care how formulaic it is.

Most of the time, I'm really against CGI in films. I hate watching stuff knowing that I know isn't real. However, there are some movies that actually make the effects work, and bring a side to a film that couldn't be achieved without the aid of a computer. KING KONG is a great example of this, and so is this movie (albeit on a much smaller scale). Point in case - the super-stylish golf scenes in this film look absolutely amazing, and it's all thanks to CGI. Well, that and Bill Paxton's surprising skill as a director (this guy is on a roll!).

Even without the stylish effects though, this movie would still be pretty darn good, and the cast has a big part in that. Most impressive is Shia LaBeouf, who after surprising me in HOLES, has been letting me down repeatedly by playing the lame sidekick in films like I, ROBOT and CONSTANTINE. Well, luckily, his time to shine has come once again, as he proves to be a very likable and charismatic lead. On top of this, both the cinematography and music are terrific, really helping to make the movie even slicker than it already is. Honestly, I never expected to recommend this film, but the outstanding filmmaking managed to really pull me into the story. Well done, Paxton, well done.
THE EXTRAS
While not filled to the brim with extras, this DVD does hold some very worthwhile material.

Commentary (with director Bill Paxton): A very interesting and chatty commentary in which Paxton energetically talks about the finer, more technical details of the film. He discusses everything from the cast to shooting the film, and it makes for a great listen.

Commentary (with author, producer, and screenwriter Mark Frost): This commentary is a little quieter and a tad less chatty, but it's still a nice listen. Frost talks a lot about the true story behind the movie, so if you're interested in that, check it out.

A View From the Gallery: On the Set of The Greatest Game Ever Played (15:23): A somewhat brief but very interesting look at how the movie was made. Some of the aspects explored include the casting, the shooting style, the music, the story, and Bill Paxton's work as the director.

Two Legends and the Greatest Game (6:52): A quick, mildly interesting featurette that gives some basic historical background to the movie's story.

From Caddy to Champion: Francis Ouimet (25:17): This 1963 documentary lets us see the real Francis Ouimet, as an old TV show host interviews the now much older golf master. I especially liked the bit where Ouimet retraced some of his memories from the U.S. Open. I'm really glad they chose to put this on the DVD, as it makes for a very neat inclusion.

There are also 6 Sneak Peeks.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
This may be a "formula" film, but in truth, I think it actually benefits from being one. Instead of the filmmakers spending all their time trying to make the movie stand out from other "true story" sports films, they simply master the formula in every way they can. Ironically enough, this in turn makes the movie stand out as one of the better of its kind. Definitely worth a rental.
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