Ray Speight (Cromwell) has been
South West District Bowls Champion for the last twenty-four years. He ran
the Torquay club with decorum and with respect for the rules of the game that
he had written. Cliff Starkey (Kaye) was an up and coming player who just
might be the injection of youth that the floundering sport needed but would
the Bowls society accept this upstart with a god-given talent
Sports movies are always the same.
With very few exceptions, the underdog always wins by overcoming adversity
and bettering themselves.Blackball isn't any different but it has its tongue
firmly planted in its cheek while doing it.
Only the British could make a sports
movie about Crown Green Bowls but as you can guess by the chosen sport that
this is a comedy that never takes itself too seriously. In fact the movie
is a very satirical take on the usual sports movie. All the pre-requisites
are there. A hero from an unprivileged background who takes his talent too
seriously, a society or club that is fearful of change, a nemesis that thinks
he is far above his antagonist and a competition that will rocket him to superstardom
if he wins it. All the hallmarks of the classic sports movie but what Blackball
successfully does is push the boundaries of these accepted doctrine and inject
a large amount of humour into each on of them.
Paul Kaye is a very talented comedic
actor and anyone who has seen his Dennis Pennis character will know this.
But is also a gifted dramatic player who can bring slightly more to the role
of Cliff than many other comics. He excels in the over-the-top brashness of
the overly confident Cliff but shows his tender side when he is riddled with
doubt and loathing for himself and the sport he loves.
The support is also first rate,
bringing together the old and the new. Johnny Vegas makes his big screen debut
with his usual gusto and outlandish style. Bernard Cribbins makes a welcome
return to the big screen as Cliff's grandfather and the person who introduced
him to bowls. The always-excellent James Cromwell does a good British accent
and plays the upper class bowls master with glee. Alice Evans is a good love
interest and Vince Vaughn is suitable over-the-top as Cliff's money grabbing
Blackball is a very British take
on the traditional sports movie. Director Mel Smith does an excellent job
of keeping the jokes coming think and fast, so a smile never really leaves
your face. While I would have liked to have seen more of the supporting characters,
like Johnny Vegas's Trevor, and it does stick to the sports movie formula,
the film does successfully poke fun at the genre by never taking itself too
seriously. Now where did I toss my wood?
Director's audio commentary,
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