Reviewer's Rating 2 out of 5   User Rating 4 out of 5
Blackball (2003)
15 Contains strong language

Film critics crumble like vampires in sunlight at the mention of a Mel Smith movie. The Tall Guy was a proto-Four Weddings, notable as writer Richard Curtis' first major feature, while Bean was damned for stretching the small-screen berk to breaking point.

But - and it is showbusiness, folks - it made a bundle.

Hence, the former TV star returns with another undemanding, join-the-dots comedy which stands a fair chance of commercial success with a beery Friday night crowd who find saying tosser the funniest thing since farting in public.

Cliff Starkey (Paul Kaye) is the principal exponent of such abuse, directed largely at Ray Speight (James Cromwell) - the stuffy suit in charge of the local lawn bowls association, which bans him from competing for England despite his evident genius.

Enter sports agent Rick Schwartz (Vince Vaughn), who styles the Torquay decorator as the bad boy of bowls and sets about causing an international sensation. Soon, as Cliff exclaims at the MTV awards, Bowls is the new rock 'n' roll!

Anyone familiar with the genre conventions of sports movies or Plucky Brit Comedy won't be surprised with what happens next, as Cliff's rags to riches rise leaves his personal life in tatters, isolating his beer-swilling best pal (Johnny Vegas) and cutesy posh girlfriend (Alice Evans).

So, it's a mild sports/media satire, laced with romance and ridicule. Evans has scenes stolen by her fringe, while Kaye can't compensate for his thin character. And no amount of ball tricks and intrusive pop music can disguise the lack of tension in the frequent bowls montages.

Vaughn and Vegas are consistently funny, but there is, literally, not a single unexpected element to the story. The relentless predictability is wearing and the guffaw-factor relies on the limited appeal of mild profanity. Think that's great comedy? You don't know jack.

End Credits

Director: Mel Smith

Writer: Tim Firth

Stars: Paul Kaye, Johnny Vegas, James Cromwell, Alice Evans, Vince Vaughn, Bernard Cribbins

Genre: Comedy

Length: 97 minutes

Cinema: 05 September 2003

Country: UK

Cinema Search

Where can I see this film?

New Releases