Hollywood has a problem. Like the asthmatic kid on the playground, they’re no good at sport. So, in the interest of fairness, we thought we’d pick on them.
I love sports as I love movies. However, when they jump in bed with each other behind my back, a godawful union is consummated with groans of disappointment. Put simply, sports movies, for the most part, are fucking awful.
Perhaps fiction is the wan cousin of sport, with the narrative being what separates the two. You see, sport is a drama that you live in (particularly to those who are devout), whereas film exists to escape the realities of life itself. So you could argue that a movie about sport would never match the moment of being there, as that experience is subjective, and therefore completely unbankable. However, with the rich tapestry of sporting history to weave your tale from, how do they consistently balls it up?
Front-and-centre to this pickle would be the thousandfold movies about Babe Ruth, a man who has already been elevated to the level of myth. Even his greatest achievements are refuted; be it the called shot in 1932, him giving money to people in the street, that he drank from the age of eight, that he cured the dying boy with a home run in ’27, or that he was solely responsible for the most lauded sporting curse of all time: “The Curse of the Bambino” (so much so that the Red Sox exhumed his corpse and apologised to it before reburying it in Boston. True story.)
There’s enough material for multiple Oscars, but as for the films made about him…well, see for yourself. The best effort so far involves John Goodman. (Nothing against John Goodman.)
I know we should ignore the critics who gave it a 5.8 rating on imdb.com but be honest with yourself, the trailer didn’t really make you want to watch it. The Babe turned up eight years earlier in The Natural wearing Joe Don Baker’s face…being struck out by that dead man who’s toppings I buy, Robert Redford.
Oh shit. I forgot Robert Duvall was in this. The Natural seems to be as though a series of ideas entered a screenwriter’s head, stopped off for a couple of drinks on the way to his hand, turned up late to the party, then shat on your doorstep. Redford, the eponymous natural, is a farm boy with a rocket arm, who strikes out Babe Ruth, gets shot by some woman for some reason, then, cut to fifteen years later, becomes the “Greatest hitter who ever lived” (lifted verbatim from Ted Williams) by saving the ailing NY Knights (featuring Mr Blonde from Reservoir Dogs), before winning the pennant for NY via a home run. He also bangs Glenn Close, builds a magic bat from a tree and gets one back against the evil owner, the man with a glass eye who lives in the dark.
It’s the Babe Ruth of celluloid stereotype, but god help me, I still get goosies when he hit that last dinger.
On the subject of worn cinematic fare dropped into a blender while the bartender pops acid is 1996’s Tin Cup, starring Kevin Costner as a Texan driving range wizard who attempts to qualify for the PGA Tour solely to bang his rival’s girlfriend (a doctor, no less). Costner’s caddy is a wise Cheech Marin. And I am not kidding.
Even moving – swiftly – past the obvious point that mid-’90s America found the hopeless bloke at the driving range who hands out buckets of balls someone that you’d a) want to hang out with or b) sleep with, Tin Cup makes no fucking sense whatsoever. Ostensibly Rene Russo represents a piece of porterhouse dropped in the middle of a more casual, yet no less galling Deliverance motif for one-hundred and forty pissing minutes. If you ever get the chance to watch it, do so with informed 2016 eyes, in that Russo could theoretically not survive each scene she is in. 6.3 on imdb
…Which brings me to perhaps an unpopular choice, but in the same divot hacked by Tin Cup, place Happy Gilmore. Quotable, sure. I use “Are you too good for your home?!” every time my dog refuses to come inside for the night, but for this film Sandler simply ripped off Tin Cup. An outsider enters the golfing world, for lols, (and via the fist of Bob Barker, crust of a Subway sandwich and the deus ex machina of a tan Volkswagen), makes awkies and eventually gets the girl. Huzzah.
But is it a good movie? Nah. You could argue that the movie went downhill after a) Carl Weathers fell out a window or b) this scene at the four-minute mark:
Watch instead: Caddyshack
Continuing the theme of interracial sports unions powered by a love interest with an odd goal, arguably White Men Can’t Jump tops them all. Both in contextual value and for being a spectacularly rubbish movie. Now, people may disagree but that’s only because a white man dunked a ball through a basketball hoop when it was generally considered that he couldn’t. Beyond that, let’s see the movie for what it is: Woody Harrelson is a white basketball hustler (because they exist), who hoodwinks marks on the assumption he can’t ball purely because the colour of his skin. (Little known fact, but the term “reverse racism” was born from this movie.) (It wasn’t.) (Moving on.) Woody balls for dough, yo, to support his girlfriend Rosie Perez, who, and I’m not kidding here, is studying to go on Jeopardy.
Harrelson, incidentally, would ball for a few more years on the West Coast, before moving to Michigan (and back in time) to play for the Flint Tropics. He was traded for a washing machine. Look it up.
Watch instead: Hoop Dreams