A League Of Ordinary Gentlemen Movie Review
Cast & Crew
Director : Christopher Browne
Producer : Christopher Browne
Starring : Wayne Webb, Pete Weber, Walter Ray Williams, Steve Miller, Chris Barnes,
This was the beginning of the end of the heyday of bowling, when it was the most popular participatory sport in America. Christopher Browne picks up the story in 1997, as the Professional Bowling Association's deal with ABC is dissolved and it makes a tearful, final broadcast. With a TV deal, the PBA is on the rocks, and its future as a professional sport looks grim.
Enter a hero: Microsoft millionnaire Steve Miller, who buys the PBA outright, with a few friends, and embarks on a plan -- a business plan, really -- to bring it back. This is the subject of A League of Ordinary Gentlemen.
Miller follows the reinvigorated PBA in 2003 as it relaunches a national tour and TV coverage courtesy of ESPN, and we follow four players -- in a style that became hugely popular with Spellbound -- as they compete for glory and a $120,000 payoff at the end of the road, the World Championships.
It's here that Miller's film devolves a bit into stereotypes -- this is bowling, after all -- and starts to repeat itself over the course of filming a series of tournaments that, with frightful power, reminded me of those lost weekends in front of the TV when bowling was the only thing on. Champ Walter Ray Williams is the kind of guy you'd see at any neighborhood bowling alley -- beer gut, beard, and not just a champion bowler, but a champion horseshoes player, too. Wayne Webb is a 30-year veteran of the sport who's obviously washing out in front of our eyes. Chris Barnes is the scrubbed newcomer, and Pete Weber is the self-proclaimed bad boy of bowling, who wears shades on the lanes and, when he does well, performs a move called "the crotch chop." (You'll see.)
In other words, there are good guys and bad guys, white and black hats, and witnessing Weber getting booed every time he bowls is quite shocking at first. What, we were expecting golf claps? But Weber's not really a bad guy: He's been pumped up into becoming a "character" by the "new" PBA's ringmaster, who basically cusses out the players at every opportunity and orders them to shut up and bowl -- and do whatever it takes to make good TV. That Weber is the son of one of bowling's biggest icons adds more of a Shakespearean twist to the film.
Miller's movie isn't perfect, but it's easy to take in, much like spending an afternoon at the lanes with some watery beer. If you've bowled at all in the last five years, it's definitely worth a look. If you haven't, give it a shot, if only so you know what goes on inside those giant, windowless buildings.
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