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THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED

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When depicting the 1913 U.S. Open, screenwriter Mark Frost had several interesting subplots that he merely grazes on rather than develops: the class tensions between professional and amateur sports; the shift of golf from its British roots to the fertile soil in America; and the tendency of American media to hype a plucky nobody who challenges the establishment. Instead, the story of legendary British golfer Harry Vardon inexplicably facing Francis Ouimet, 20-year-old working-class kid from Boston, for golf's top prize, becomes another in a long list of historical sports fairy tales, overly full of square-jawed determination and soaring violins. Director Bill Paxton naturally favors practice sessions backlit by sunrises, but also ill-advisedly cranks up the special effects that are particularly distracting in the otherwise well-designed period piece. Shia LaBeouf, as Oiumet, is a likable enough actor, but he has little to do here but trod through the expected paces. (AH)

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