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TIN CUP

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, May 29, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: Pro golf is among the first sporting events (along with auto racing) to open up as the pandemic slows up (we hope). I found this 24-year-old flick on the subject a bit misguided but if you’re a golf fan you’ll have some fun with it. You can thank Warner Archive for giving the film a boost with a recent Blu-ray release. My review was published on Aug. 15, 1996.

Kevin Costner and filmmaker Ron Shelton teamed up for a huge hit in 1988, the romantic sports-comedy "Bull Durham."

Eight years later, as both can certainly use another hit, Costner and Shelton have teamed up again for yet another romantic sports-comedy. This one is called "Tin Cup."

The only trouble is that instead of invoking "Bull Durham," director/co-writer Shelton has chosen to echo another, very different sports film — "The Natural." The closing sequence of "Tin Cup" especially seems to purposely resonate that film's climax as it builds to a dreamlike, impossible play set against a wildly enthusiastic, triumphant musical score.

But the moment isn't played for laughs, either as parody or homage. It is instead played perfectly straight. And "Tin Cup" isn't about baseball — it's about golf.

Moreover, the film plays out as way too long, takes itself too seriously — and is likely to have the audience leaving the theater thinking, "Too bad."

     

Kevin Costner, left, Rene Russo, Cheech Marin, 'Tin Cup' (1996)

Costner is the title character, Roy "Tin Cup" McAvoy, once a promising golfer who should have embarked years ago on a high-profile career on the pro tour. Instead, however, Roy has been reduced to giving lessons at a remote driving range in the small West Texas town of Salome.

It seems that Roy never follows through and he never plays it safe, which is why he has lost ownership of the driving range to his ex-girlfriend Doreen (Linda Hart), who also owns a thriving local strip joint.

But two events come together to give Roy a second chance.

First, he meets a psychologist, Dr. Molly Griswold (Rene Russo), who signs up for golfing lessons. Second, his old partner/nemesis David Simms (Don Johnson), now a pro-golf star, offers him the demeaning job of being his caddy.

Roy takes the caddy job but blows it, of course. And then, just as he realizes he really is in love with Molly, Roy discovers that she is the significant other of … you guessed it! … David Simms.

Eventually, Roy decides the only way to regain his self-esteem, earn the money to get his driving range back and to win the girl of his dreams is to enter — and win — the U.S. Open.

There is great potential here in this variation on the little-guy-against-the-odds formula. In fact, there might be a terrific little light comedy of, say, 90 minutes, struggling to get out of this two-hours-plus, self-indulgent epic.

     

Costner delivers another laid-back performance that barely registers and Russo is sexy and smart if ditsy (why she would wear a tight, short skirt to her first golf lesson is a mystery). And Johnson is very good in his supporting role, obviously having great fun as the charming villain of the piece.

Linda Hart also gets an awful lot of mileage out of her stripper-with-a-head-for-finance role, and best of all is Cheech Marin as Tin Cup's right-hand man, adviser and caddy. Marin, who is fast becoming one of our best comic character players, gets plenty of laughs from his verbal asides and mugging reactions — and he also manages to give his role some real dimension.

Unfortunately, much of the movie's plot hinges on our belief that Costner is hopelessly, head-over-heels in love with Russo — and they just don't have any chemistry together. That lack of romantic spark really hinders the film's progress. Much of the movie seems drawn out and labored, but Costner and Russo's scenes together are especially sluggish.

By the by, a couple of minor cast members have Utah connections. Pro golfer Johnny Miller makes a brief cameo appearance as himself, and Jim Nantz, who was a sportscaster with KSL television for several years and is now with CBS Sports, also plays himself during the lengthy U.S. Open sequence toward the end of the film.

"Tin Cup" is rated R for considerable profanity and vulgar language, as well as a sex scene and some nudity in a strip bar.