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Posts Tagged ‘Paul Kaye’

From the Hootoo archive. Originally published September 25th 2003:

It seems a bit fatuous to write about a low-budget British comedy that’s just about finished its run on the big screen even as I write, but what the hell. Mel Smith’s Blackball is breezy good fun, and features a rare big-screen outing for the legendary Bernard Cribbins (Cribbins’ status as a comic genius should be evident to anyone who’s seen Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150AD), so let’s have a look at it anyway.

Based, admittedly quite loosely, on real-life events, this is the story of crown-green bowling prodigy Cliff Starkey (Paul Kaye) who, despite his enormous talent for the game, scandalises the bowling grandees of his native Torquay with his irreverent attitude towards it. Chief amongst his enemies is the Basil Fawlty-esque reigning champion Ray Speight (James Cromwell). Cliff beats Ray in the county championship, but after (justifiably) calling him a rather rude name, finds himself on the wrong end of a fifteen year ban. But the incident also makes him a bit of a celebrity, and before long the siren song of wealth and fame is calling him…

To be honest, any claim to a basis on true events which this film may have evaporates after about twenty-five minutes, at which point the appearance of a rather incongruous Vince Vaughn heralds its transformation into a rather cartoonish parody of many sports movies and a satire on the way many sports have been glitzed up for the media. The comedy is broad, knockabout stuff, but performed quite well by a cast containing many familiar faces off the telly. Bernard Cribbins is, predictably, great as Cliff’s grandad, and so is Johnny Vegas as his best mate – even if he’s simply just recycling his standard comic persona for the occasion.

This is a fun film, but an substantial one. The near-total lack of depth or realism jars with the ‘too much, too young’ arc of the middle section of the plot, which in any case seldom strays very far from predictability. The jokes do get increasingly daft as it proceeds, and it does strongly resemble a shambolic 1970s comedy film in a couple of places. But it’s very likeable, and does make a few astute observations about the commercialisation of sport along the way. Enjoyable.

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