Sunday, May 24, 2020

Tonight's Movie: Tin Cup (1996) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

Kevin Costner is probably my favorite movie star of the last three decades, yet somehow I'd never seen his film TIN CUP (1996). I've now rectified that thanks to a terrific new Blu-ray release from the Warner Archive.

Costner plays Roy McAvoy, who washed up as a pro golfer and now runs a rinky-dink driving range in West Texas. The opening scenes do a marvelous job setting the stage; the range is about to fall apart and threatens to be overrun by armadillos.

Psychologist Molly Griswold (Rene Russo) has just moved to town and shows up at the range for lessons. Molly's boyfriend, David Simms (Don Johnson), is a successful pro golfer who was Roy's college partner -- and longtime rival.

Roy is immediately smitten by Molly and begins a campaign to win her away from David. To that end, he decides to show her he's more than the man living a hand-to-mouth existence in a motorhome at the driving range; he works to get his act together and attempts to qualify to play in the U.S. Open.

That's about the extent of the plot; what matters is the journey, and it's a quirky and surprisingly humorous tale filled with richly detailed characterizations. I was delighted to discover that at times it's actually "laugh out loud" funny.

The film is probably about ten minutes overlong, clocking in at 135 minutes, but I smiled throughout, and you can't ask for much more than that from a movie.

As I watched I had the vague feeling that the movie reminded me of Clint Eastwood's BRONCO BILLY (1980), but at first I wasn't quite sure why. As I pondered it longer, the elements began falling into place, starting with the "high class" lady who's thrown into the midst of a "found family" of oddball characters.

Both films have elements of screwball comedy, but underlying are more serious themes of friendship, self-discovery, and deliberately choosing to change the course of one's life.

At times TIN CUP hits predictable notes, particularly with a ROCKY (1976) style "winning but not winning" climax, but on the whole it's filled with marvelous little surprises. Costner's talent and appeal are a known element, but Russo -- great in a more serious role in THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (1999) -- here displays a charmingly off-center and quite funny woman who's smart but perhaps doesn't have her act quite together herself. I found her performance a delight.

The circle surrounding Roy includes his faithful, long-suffering caddy Romeo (Cheech Marin), backup caddy Earl (Dennis Burkley), and Doreen (Linda Hart), a stripper who was formerly Roy's girlfriend. They all sketch memorable characters, with Doreen's "between us girls" chat with Molly on the golf course being a highlight. Romeo and Roy marveling over the brand-new Titleist golf balls at the Open also had me chuckling.

Don Johnson nails the phony David, who has an unpleasant edge lurking underneath the smooth-talking exterior. The cast also includes Rex Linn, Lou Meyers, Richard Lineback, George Perez, Mickey Jones, and a few golfers and announcers playing themselves.

TIN CUP was directed by Ron Shelton, who wrote the screenplay with John Norville. Shelton was also the man behind BULL DURHAM (1988), one of Costner's beloved "baseball trilogy" along with FIELD OF DREAMS (1989) and FOR LOVE OF THE GAME (1999). Fun fact, I sat across the aisle from Shelton watching BULL DURHAM at the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival.

My most recent viewing of BULL DURHAM admittedly left me dissatisfied, but I had no such feelings about TIN CUP, finding it one of the more enjoyable films I've seen this year. As a matter of fact, one of my other favorite 2020 watches was revisiting another of Costner's sports films, DRAFT DAY (2014). It's hard to go wrong with Costner and a sports theme.

Parental Advisory: This film is rated R for language and other content, but I found it much more restrained than Shelton and Costner's too-crass BULL DURHAM.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray is a terrific widescreen print showing off the filming of Russell Boyd. It has excellent sound. The disc includes a trailer.


Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop.


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