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DISNEY

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Bill Paxton
Cast:
Shia LaBeouf, Elias Koteas, Marnie McPhail, Jonathan Higgins, Stephen Dillane, Robin Wilcock, Peter Firth, Michael Sinelnikoff
Writing Credits:
Mark Frost (book & screenplay)

Synopsis:
From Walt Disney Pictures comes The Greatest Game Ever Played ... the crowd-pleasing underdog epic that's based on an inspirational true story! Young amateur golfer Francis Ouimet (Shia LaBeouf) has nothing but talent and a seemingly impossible dream to challenge the world's greatest player, his idol Harry Vardon. Soon, with the help of his spunky 10-year-old caddy Eddie, Francis boldly breaks down all barriers with a thrilling display of unrivaled drive, skill, and heart ... and challenges the golf pro for the U.S. Open Championship!

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$3.657 million on 1014 screens.
Domestic Gross
$15.331 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 121 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 4/11/2006

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Bill Paxton
• Audio Commentary with writer/co-producer Mark Frost
• ďA View from the Gallery: On the Set of The Greatest Game Ever PlayedĒ Featurette
• ďTwo Legends and the Greatest GameĒ Featurette
• ďFrom Caddy to Champion: Francis OuimetĒ Featurette
• Sneak Peeks


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 5, 2006)

Best known as an actor, Bill Paxtonís two feature-length directorial works to date sure contrast with each other. In 2001ís Frailty, Paxton created a dark, disturbing horror story. He goes in the completely opposite direction with 2005ís family friendly The Greatest Game Ever Played.

At the start of the 20th century, young Francis Ouimet (Matthew Knight) obsesses over golf. He makes money as a caddy and idolizes star golfer Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane) even though his dad Arthur (Elias Koteas) discourages these feelings. However, his mom (Marnie McPhail) is more tolerant and even takes Francis to a local exhibition with Vardon where the boy gets a quick lesson from the pro.

Game soon leaps ahead a few years. Francis (Shia LaBeouf) still works as a caddy, but he plays for his high school and does well. His partisans at the club encourage him to enter an amateur championship. However, Francis chokes on 18 and doesnít make the cut. Per an agreement with his dad, this means he needs to quit golfing.

Despite that, Francis later gets an offer to play in the 1913 US Open. They need a local amateur for the tournament, and his partisans give him the nod. Initially Francis resists due to his promise to his dad, but he changes his mind when he learns Vardon will compete there. Along with his outspoken 10-year-old caddy Eddie (Josh Flitter), Francis makes his run at the championship during the meat of the movie.

Hereís what Game tells us: rich people bad - rich people very bad! Actually, all authority figures come off poorly here, as Francis's pushy dad also seems like a jerk. All these folks want to do is keep dreamers down and not let them succeed. At least the attitudes espoused by Arthur come from ignorance; the aristocrats seem just plain nasty.

Weíve seen this sort of tale a jillion times in the past. When you come right down to it, isnít Game just a less raunchy version of Caddyshack? The story presents no greater introspection or depth than that comedy classic. It takes a superficial David vs. Goliath point of view and never attempts anything more complex than that.

Actually, Game does attempt to add some dimensionality to the character who normally would become the villain. From the very start, we clearly understand that Francis will ultimately face off against Vardon. However, rather than portray Vardon as a stock baddie against whom we can root, the movie makes him out to be a rags to riches success and someone to inspire Francis.

I suppose I should applaud this choice, but instead I think it flops. At no point is the outcome of the final match in doubt, so the only joy we can take from a movie like this comes from the visceral emotion of our heroís victory. The portrayal of Vardon as classy and noble undermines that. Heís shown as little more than an older version of Francis, so why should we hope for his failure?

Thatís a distinct problem in a film that usually seems so simplistic. If Paxton explored the Vardon character better, it might have been more compelling. However, his backstory receives only minor exposition, so we donít find much reason to care for him beyond some knee jerk reactions to the aristocrats who use him.

Though he receives much more screentime, Francis doesnít earn greater dimensionality. LaBeouf plays him in an amiable way but not in a manner that creates a true personality. Francis is your stock underdog. The film doesnít mar those stereotypical attributes, but it doesnít add anything to them either.

I thought Paxton showed a fairly sure hand with Frailty, as that effort outdid most in its genre. Unfortunately, Paxton comes across as immature at the helm of Game. He lacks confidence in his material and tries to artificially spice things up with various techniques. Rather than tell a story with concision and depth, he prefers to favor gimmicks.

Oh Lord, does Paxton rely on flimflammery during Game! The director incorporates a slew of idiotic visual and sound effects to display the golf action. The camera follows the ball in flight, much is rendered in slow motion, and a lot of it comes with loud ďexplosiveĒ audio.

Used once or twice, these gestures would have been tolerable. Unfortunately, Paxton relies on them throughout the movie. They get sillier and sillier as they distract from the story. They act to add drama and punch, but they fail. Instead, they come across as pointless.

During The Greatest Game Ever Played, Paxton becomes far too occupied with odd effects while he remains too unconcerned with character and story development. His lack of confidence robs the movie of its inherent drama. This leaves us with a flashy piece that packs no punch at all.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

The Greatest Game Ever Played appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. No notable problems emerged via this transfer.

Despite a little edge enhancement, sharpness looked good. A smidgen of softness crept into some wider shots, but the majority of the flick offered nice definition and delineation. Jagged edges and shimmering created no distractions, and I witnessed no signs of source flaws.

The somewhat nostalgic, stylized palette of Game favored greens and golds. These werenít truly realistic, but they seemed well fleshed out given the movieís production design. The colors always were concise. Blacks seemed acceptably strong, and most low-light shots were clean and smooth. A couple of them were a little dense, but those caused no problems. This was a consistently satisfying image.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Game was also fine. It boasted a reasonably active soundfield. Actually, it became too lively at times due to those distracting elements I mentioned in the body of the review. With booms and swishes, the movie showed too many auditory gimmicks.

Despite those, the soundscape remained pretty positive. Louder scenes like storms presented nice spread around the spectrum, and the mix also demonstrated a very good sense of atmosphere. The many outdoors shots opened up matters well and made this a fairly encompassing track.

No issues with audio quality emerged. Speech seemed natural and concise, and I noticed no edginess or other concerns. Music was crisp and full, and effects showed good range. Low-end was deep and clear, and the elements offered fine accuracy and precision. The mix ended up as a good one.

Two audio commentaries launch the DVDís extras. The first features director Bill Paxton as he offers a running, screen-specific piece. Though he offers some good notes, his gushing tone makes this track a little tough to take.

Paxton gets into many of the usual issues. He chats about cast and performances, sets and locations, storytelling and visual decisions, effects, and adaptation choices. Paxton maintains a peppy attitude and reveals fun facts like how Yellow Submarine and Star Wars influenced Game.

Unfortunately, as I alluded, Paxtonís remarks come with a whole lot of happy talk. He devotes much of the commentary to plain praise for the flick and all those involved. Iím glad he feels so proud of the movie, but this tone gets old. The combination of good facts and fluffy comments mean that this is an informative but erratic track.

For the second track, we hear from writer/co-producer Mark Frost. He also presents a running, screen-specific chat. This commentary more heavily focuses on Frostís work as writer than producer. He tosses out a few production notes but mostly concentrates on the history behind the movie.

And he does so very well. Frost gives us a great look at the facts of the events depicted in the film. He covers the participants, the situations and the reality of the era in which the story takes place. Frost provides an excellent background and helps flesh out our understanding of the movie.

The DVD follows with three featurettes. A View from the Gallery: On the Set of The Greatest Game Ever Played lasts 15 minutes, 23 seconds. It mixes movie clips, behind the scenes bits and interviews. We hear from Paxton, Frost, producer Larry Brezner, sequence conceptual consultant Mick Reinman, composer/conductor Brian Tyler, production designer Francois Seguin, costume designer Renee April, CDN PGA golf trainer John Murray, visual effects supervisor Dennis Berardi, and actors Shia LaBeouf, George Asprey, Peter Firth, Peyton List, Stephen Marcus, Elias Koteas, Stephen Dillane and Michael Weaver.

They focus on the movieís visual depiction of golf, the score, production design and period details, costumes, golf training, visual effects, cast and performances, and Paxtonís impact on the production. ďViewĒ doesnít offer an unusually compelling featurette, but it works pretty well. The last few minutes are the only really fluffy ones. They include lots of praise for the cast, director and film. Otherwise we get short but insightful looks at various aspects of the production. These prove reasonably informative.

The six-minute and 51-second Two Legends and the Greatest Game includes notes from Paxton, Frost, and LaBeouf. Frostís narration dominates the featurette as he gives us an overview of the movieís characters and situations. This partially acts as a shorter version of Frostís commentary, though he adds details that donít appear there. That means this piece is worth a look and gives us some nice notes.

Lastly, a 1963 TV program called From Caddy to Champion: Francis Ouimet goes for 25 minutes and 17 seconds. Hosted by Fred Cusick, we learn about Ouimetís life and career. We also get to meet the real Ouimet at the age of 70 as Cusick reminisces with him. They get into aspects of golf back in the early days and look over old equipment. Cusick and Ouimet then take a tour of the Brookline course and detail the 1913 tournament.

When I saw the title of this piece, I figured it would be a puffy look at Ouimet that existed mainly to promote the movie. That made the showís reality a very pleasant surprise. We get a terrific look at the real Ouimet and learn a lot about him. This may be the DVDís most valuable extra.

A few ads open the DVD. We get promos for Cars, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Manís Chest, Glory Road, and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. These also appear under Sneak Peeks along with clips for Airbuddies and Walt Disney World golf.

The Greatest Game Ever Played will never be seen as the Greatest Movie Ever Made. Itís simplistic and far too worried about goofy effects. It fails to tale its story in a compelling, dramatic manner. The DVD offers good picture and audio as well as a positive collection of extras. I canít recommend a movie I donít like, but I also canít subject this DVD to much criticism.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1818 Stars Number of Votes: 11
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