PLOT: Two estranged brothers put their differences aside and attempt to make it to play in the U.S. Open.
REVIEW: You don’t have to be a fan of tennis to enjoy the new sports comedy BREAK POINT. While it may help to understand the game it isn’t necessary. What this charming feature is really about is the relationship between two estranged brothers. It is a universal – albeit sometimes predictable – story that has it’s fair share of funny moments. While it tends to bring up several overtly serious issues without real closure, it still manages to be an entertaining hour and a half. In fact, one of the main complaints is that the running time may be too short. The game montages move too quickly – as do the weak subplots – yet they still manage to generate a few exciting moments on and off the courts.
Jeremy Sisto is Jimmy, a thirty-five year-old one time tennis pro that has worn out his welcome. He has a bad attitude, and not a single player wants to be his partner. Desperate to prove all his naysayers wrong, he only wants a shot at the U.S. Open. When all his other options fail, he attempts to convince his younger brother Darren (David Walton) to play by his side. Darren, while a tad more stable than Jimmy, is looking for some meaning in his life. He pines for a pretty young girl named Heather (Amy Smart) who works for the boys’ veterinarian father Jack (J.K. Simmons), yet he can’t bring himself to express his adoration to her. Perhaps the two siblings will find what they are looking for while once again, standing side by side on the court. And once they finally partner up and face the challenge of the game, they find themselves dealing with the obstacles they place on each other.
What really makes BREAK POINT work is the cast. Both Sisto and Walton give very real and honest portrayals. It is easy to root for these two – in part because their opponents usually don’t even get a single line of dialogue. The two actors work especially well off of each other, and it is great to see Sisto in a leading role. Perhaps it is the fact that neither are huge stars that it keeps the film grounded. They also play especially well off a young actor named Joshua Rush who plays Barry, a student of Darrens’ – when he is not playing tennis he is a substitute teacher. This is a great cast that helps elevate the material. Although after his massive success in WHIPLASH, it would have been nice to see a little more of the terrific J.K. Simmons.
While there is much to enjoy in this sports comedy, the script attempts to cover a lot of ground and it sometimes doesn’t succeed. With several names credited, including Sisto, there are a few too many subplots that are not fully fleshed out in the script. Every single opponent the brother’s face are hardly more than featured extras. Even with the final match, the tension is lessened a bit because we don’t really care about the opposing team. And then there is Barry. We are given a few obvious hints as to why Darren’s student is so clingy to a substitute teacher, yet his story not involving the brothers is short-changed. Yes his mom is sort of crazy, but one scene to tell us this feels like the idea was scraped. It fails to offer up much more than trying to get the boy to hang out with Darren and Jimmy and not be creepy.
For all the issues I had with the script, much of this works. While keeping the focus on Jimmy and Darren, director Jay Karas is able to keep things moving at an impressively brisk pace. And even the tennis matches garner up a little bit of tension. The comedic director isn’t making a game-changing sports comedy, but he at least seems to understand the sport. It was also impressive to see the two stars – presumably – get in the court and actually play. That is probably the biggest reason why everything on the court still generates some real energy.
BREAK POINT may not be a great film, but it certainly has a lot of heart. This is a sweet flick – with a ton of swearing – that delivers solid performances from the cast. Sure the script can’t quite get a handle on all the many facets of what it attempts to do, but it is still an entertaining watch. And once again, it is Sisto and Walton who are able to create a very real bond. This may not be perfect, but it is far more than simply serviceable – yes, pun intended. In fact, if may even have you wanting to grab a racket and step out onto the court.