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29 October 2014
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15Blackball (2003)

updated 27th August 2003
reviewer's rating
two star
Reviewed by Nev Pierce


Director
Mel Smith
Writer
Tim Firth
Stars
Paul Kaye
Johnny Vegas
James Cromwell
Alice Evans
Vince Vaughn
Bernard Cribbins
Length
97 minutes
Distributor
Icon
Cinema
2003
Country
UK
Genre
Comedy
Web Links
Watch the trailer: standard speed

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Official website



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.

"Blackball" is released in UK cinemas on Friday 5th September 2003.









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