While we have seen this story before it is a story worth retelling.
I would have liked to have gotten a commentary track from Shia LaBeouf and Josh Flitter.
I didn't catch The Greatest Game Ever Played in the movie theater, but it was a film I wanted to see. I do remember taking a glance at the box office numbers for this movie and I was surprised that it didn't fare better in the marketplace. This tale of Francis Ouimet (Shia LeBeouf), a young boy from humble beginnings who ends up challenging Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane), the British champion, has certainly been told before in different forms, but there is a winningness to this story's approach that grabbed me. When one considers the amazing odds that Ouimet was up against and the fact that at such a young age he had to have a real staunch belief in himself, I think The Greatest Game Ever Played is a true testament to the power of the human spirit.
Also, Bill Paxton show's a real steady directorial hand on this film. While I could have done without some of the shots of the golf ball zooming through the air, I honestly think he is going to become one of our sturdiest and interesting talents behind the camera.
A View From the Gallery
This is an on set look during the production of this film. We get to hear from the actors, the director and other members of the crew as they explain the significance of this story. LaBeouf explains the character as well as what it was like to play golf in a movie. Paxton talks about the story and why he felt that it would a good film. Other people throw in their two cents and if nothing else, this featurette really serves as a nice primer to the film.
Two Legends and the Greatest Game
Showcasing both Harry Vardon and Francis Ouimet, this featurette looks at these two men and the impact that they had on golf. In some ways it seems that their story stands as the poster child for a lot of sports. Basically, it's tough to get up in the morning and run when you're sleeping in silk pajamas. These are two people who came up tough and that fueled their desire to win at this sport.
We have commentary tracks from director Bill Paxton and the films writer Mark Frost. As someone who has grown up watching Bill Paxton in various movies, I really enjoyed hearing him talk as a director here. He really brings a solid, steady approach to both his acting and directing craft and I think that this is highly evident in the way this movie was executed. Writer Mark Frost talks about writing a film that is depicting a real life event but also trying to service a cinematic narrative. The commentaries are interesting while never lingering too long on any one aspect of the production.
From Caddy to Champion: Francis Ouimet
Truthfully, I found this supplemental feature to be a tad redundant. I only say this because if you have seen the movie, why do we need a documentary showing us the story we already know? I guess I did enjoy this aspect of comparing and contrasting history but I am not sure it was totally necessary.
1.85:1 - Aspect Ratio. Bill Paxton has given this film a curious look. For about 98% percent of the movie it plays as solidly as one would expect it would. All the camera angles and shots are placed where they seemingly should be. It is when he takes us into the action of the game that I think the film falters a bit. It is probably being so used to how golf is put across on the small screen, but I feel that Paxton deviating from that has sort of done this movie a disservice.
English and French - Dolby Digital 5.1. Nothing about the sound stood out in my opinion. This isn't to say at all that the sound is bad it just isn't anything we aren't used to hearing. There is the "swoosh" of the ball flying through the air, the somber music when things aren't going so well for our main character and of course the triumphant strains we have come to expect from Hollywood. Solid if not spectacular work on a film that is as well made as they come.
The front cover has Disney movie (literally) written all over it. We get two big pictures of Francis Ouimet and Harry Vardon and underneath them is a photo of Ouimet being celebrated. I don't think you have to work in Scotland Yard to put together what happens during this movie if you have never seen it before. The back of this DVD has some pictures from the film, a description of what this movie is about, a "Bonus Features" listing and some technical specs. Pretty simple packaging but this is one of those movies that has a very strong "can do" attitude, so recognition of the front cover alone should make consumers interested in viewing it.
Golf is one of those games that seems like it would be hard to pull off and make exciting on the big screen, but at the same time there have been some really good movies made around the sport. In my opinion, the best one would be Tin Cup but I think that The Greatest Game Ever Played is pretty good too. All of the actors, especially LaBeouf, Josh Flitter (Ouimet's young caddy, Eddie) and Stephen Dillane (Harry Vardon) all come together to tell this story. I also liked how Vardon and Ouimet had certain shared life experiences, like their working class upbringing. It made their U.S. Open game that much more intriguing because in some ways, they each had just as much to loose.
Not the greatest movie on golf I have ever seen, The Greatest Game Ever Played is pretty darn good.
The Greatest Game Ever Played was released September 30, 2005.