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The Greatest Game Ever Played

In the popular board game Life, players try very hard to start out with a profession that pays well. Some jump right into a career while others choose the college route with the goal to get the doctor or accountant salary. But obviously what you start out with never predestines the outcome of the game. If it did then the game would be over after a couple of turns. There are many factors along the way; skill, luck, passion, the spin of the wheel, that determine who wins and who loses.

In Disney's retelling of real life golfer Francis Ouimet and his stunning victory at the 1912 US Open as an amateur, we see that many times passion and process go much farther than power and prestige. This screen version of the must read book by Mark Frost, The Greatest Game Ever Played, is more than just a golf narrative. It even goes deeper than a look at a young, immigrant’s son who becomes America’s last hope and takes on his own hero Harry Vardon, in a match of countries more than combatants. It is a story of all of us.

Many may wonder why this incredible tale of sports Americana took so long to manufacture for the box office. Director Bill Paxton has a theory, “It was a story that went down a long time ago, there’s been two world wars, a depression, there’s been a lot of things in the world happen in the 92 years since this took place.” When asked why he decided to take this project, Paxton went on to say, “…the guy (Frances) had a ten year old caddie, was an immigrants son, he ends up playing the guy that he worshipped all of his life. It’s a Cinderella story, it really is… I thought, this is too good to be true; this <screenplay> is made in movie heaven… I think that most filmmakers got sort of sucker punched by the pastoral nature of this sport…I thought, wait a second, this could be combat, this could be tombstone, knights and cowboys… ” Paxton and his team do a stellar job of catching the look and feel of America and it’s people in the early 1900’s. Plus they make every swing of the club come alive from hole to hole. Says writer/producer Mark Frost, "We wanted the movie to be a kind of time machine for people … that you could really go back and experience what it was like to be there and be alive in that period. Bringing back a world that has since vanished."

Shia LaBeouf plays the role of Ouimet and had this to say about the movie and his take on the game of golf in that time period. “…There is more than golf in this too, when Frances played there was a social change in America. Much like racism or sexism, homophobic, hating people for no reason at all. Back then in 1913 it was about money, it was about the rich, the elitist versus the poor, the every-man... there was an influx of immigrants to the country and they had no spokesperson, no Martin Luther King, no one who was for them, Frances Ouimet became there spokesperson.”

In the vein of Remember the Titans and Miracle, The Greatest Game Ever Played is full of perseverance and heart swelling moments. It is a fantastic film regardless of whether you like golf, sports or even movies and reminds us that if we follow our fever and never lose the belief in ourselves, we will find that honestly, The Greatest Game Ever played is life.

For audio clips of Matt's interviews with Bill Paxton, Shia LaBeouf and writer Mark Frost visit

The Mungle 9/21/2005

Matt hosts the weekly syndicated Indie Rock Radio Show Spin 180. Plus with his wife Cindy they do a weekly radio feature, The Mungles on Movies. For additional reviews and interview clips visit the website"



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