In the world of real life sports stories, films about football, hockey, and baseball reign supreme. But there’s a sport that kicked up a bit of dirt in early and mid ’00, with Legend of Bagger Vance debuting in 2000 and The Greatest Game Ever Played premiering in 2005. The distance apart between the films should be an indicator that the sport of golf isn’t often made into a theatrical film. In fact you can probably only fill one hand with the number of nameable golf films, parody or not (granted there are way more than that). So while we may be deluged with “based on a true, tear inducing sports story,” rarely is it one focused on golf…which makes The Greatest Game Ever Played immediately a great deal more interesting.
The Greatest Game Ever Played was directed by the multi-talented Bill Paxton (actor -Titanic, Twister, director – Frailty). It features a winningly charismatic lead performance by future Hollywood superstar Shia LaBeouf (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Transformers) in the role of amateur golfer Francis Ouimet, a working-class youth, who shocked the world by defeating golf pro Harry Vardon in the 1913 U.S. Open Championship. Available at an SRP of $34.99, The Greatest Game Ever Played on Disney Blu-ray is the greatest way to experience this classic tale of unexpected sports heroism!
True story films are an interesting breed of films for me. I’m immediately more interested in them because they often tell some kind of remarkable story (however little of it may actually be true by the time its Hollywood-i-fied doesn’t really matter), yet when it comes to the sports genre…I’m often bored by the concept. It’s always the same “poor kid who has no opportunities in life aside from sports,” which, while not bad, just kind of gets boring after awhile…especially when the same sports are used over and over again. So that’s why I was a tad bit more interested in The Greatest Game Ever Played, simply because golf isn’t a sport you see in film a lot.
So is the structuring of the story any different from other sports? Nope, not at all. It follows the same basic line of a kid who has some kind of repression pushed on him (in this case, it’s a kid whose father doesn’t want him chasing after his dream of playing golf) and in the end everything you rooted for in the beginning triumphs and smiles and tears abound. It’s wholly predictable in its execution, right down to the final “showdown” on the green.
What just makes the film so remarkable is it’s a different time and a different sport. Really, that’s all I can attribute to why I enjoyed the film as much as I did. It didn’t hurt that the actors involved were all remarkable and did spectacular jobs in each of their roles. In addition the film took some interesting visual liberties at times with the sport, offering focal point shots of the golf ball rolling into the hole or flying through the air. There’s also the character of Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane) that has his own interesting way of playing golf, by ignoring everything around him and picturing that he was somewhere else. That actually got to be a bit strange after awhile, as by the third time it happened you were past the “the hell is happening” stage and into the “yes, yes, we get it. He makes things disappear with his mind” area. Still it did at least try to mix things up with that element, although it kind of took you out of the “this is a real story in the early 1900s” mindset when the obvious CGI kicked in…but minor qualms, really.
So yes, the film was relentlessly predictable, but it was nonetheless entertaining. To see the two golfers, a seasoned pro on one hand and an amateur on the other, have it all come down to the final putt was as exciting as things could get (and, apparently, this was the only change from the real story to the film, as it didn’t actually come down that close to the wire). So regardless of how predictable it all seemed, it was still just an exciting time.
Films like these don’t often try to rewrite the genre, as if it’s a good story you’ll become wrapped up in it no matter what. While it can get a bit tedious to see a myriad of films covering the same sport after awhile (I’m looking at you, football), it is a nice change of pace when you get a sport like golf to take in instead. Of course this film is four years old at this point, so it’s likely many who have wanted to see it have already done so, but still…it’s not like we have a lot of true story golf films coming down the pike, do we? Recommended.
The Greatest Game Ever Played arrives on Blu-ray in a standard Elite Blu-ray case (the Disney variety, with the locking side) with interests that advertise the format as well as include a code for the Disney Movie Rewards program. Menus are simple and easy to navigate, while the AVC encoded 1080p transfer replicates the scenery of the film brilliantly. There is a bit of softness to the image and not every detail pops off the screen, mainly due to the film subdued and brown-coated color palette, but for the most part the transfer doesn’t disappoint. It also doesn’t wow you either, which is a bit of a problem as that’s what you want the Blu-ray format to do…but it can’t do that with every film, sadly enough. The TrueHD 5.1 track boasts more than enough surround activity, with whizzing golf balls and exasperated crowd noises, but aside from that the majority of the audio work is left to the front channels to replicate…which it does flawlessly.
Extras are all ported over from the previous DVD release and include:
A View from the Gallery: On the Set (15:22, SD)
Two Legends and the Greatest Game (6:51, SD)
From Caddie to Champion: Francis Ouimet (25:18, SD)
Audio Commentary with Director Bill Paxton
Audio Commentary with Author, Screenwriter and Producer Mark Frost
They’re all pretty basic and in standard definition, but the commentary with director Bill Paxton especially is a lot of fun to listen to.
Overall The Greatest Game Ever Played isn’t a huge leap from the DVD release, as the only new feature of the release are the audio and video transfers…so if you own the previous release, then you won’t get much by upgrading to this one. Still, if you’re in the market for a new Blu-ray and you haven’t seen this film, then this release comes Recommended.
The Greatest Game Ever Played is now available on Blu-ray.