Monday, September 23, 2013

The Short Game

Hey, it's an entry that I'd feel pretty good about my family reading, what with a number of them liking golf and/or having kids, and the most objectionable material being a couple instances of parents swearing when things don't go well on the golf course.

And the movie itself is one I'd recommend to a few folks in my family specifically, as I remember my sister-in-law commenting a year or two ago that they were trying to find good documentaries for their daughter to watch, which isn't as easy to find as you might expect. This one, though, is not only kid-friendly, but pretty much every important character is about the same age as my niece (who turns seven next week).

I'm not sure whether it will make it to a theater in southern Maine for my nieces and their parents to see it; the national release was tiny and it didn't tear up the screens with the sort of attendance that gets it an expansion - when you're a small movie made with kids in mind, it probably doesn't do you any favors to come out the same week as a special Imax 3D run of The Wizard of Oz. But given that one of the studios releasing it was Netflix, it will probably show up on their servers double-quick, if it hasn't already. It's worth a look - unabashedly a cute, upbeat movie with adorable little kids, but excellent at being that sort of movie.

The Short Game

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 22 September 2013 in AMC Boston Common #3 (first-run, 4K DCP)

It feels like it's been a while since a documentary about kids who do something well and compete to see who does it the best has worked its way into a decent number of theaters, and The Short Game is a good one. Sure, It skews far more toward the adorable than the controversial, but not beyond the bounds of credibility. Anyway, there are far less enjoyable ways to spend an afternoon at the movies than watching second-grade golfers.

The filmmakers pay visits to seven-and-eight-year-olds from around the world before they converge on Pinehurst, North Carolina for the annual children's golf championships. There's Allan Kournikova, a seven-year-old extrovert from Palm Beach who won the tourney in his age group last year and whose older sister is also a well-known tennis player; Zamokuhle "Zama" Nxasana, an outgoing South African boy; Kuang Yang, a Shenzhen boy who picked up an instructional DVD at two thinking it was a cartoon; Alexa Pano, last year's girls' champion and Allan's best friend; Jed Dy of Manila, autistic but high-functioning; Augustin Valery, a Parisian eight-year-old from a family of achievers; Sky Sudbury, a pink-clad pixie who shows not everything is bigger in Texas; and Amari Avery, an intense competitor called "Tigress" for how much of her background she shares with Tiger Woods. All are shadowed by "Daddy Caddies" (even if, in some cases, it's the mother) who take things quite seriously themselves.

First and foremost, they're a great bunch of kids, whether they love playing to the camera as much as Allan or shy from it like Jed. As focused as they can be when playing golf - and the crazy hours they put into it, from early morning strength training to hitting balls right up to bedtime - they are all bright, energetic, funny kids who smile a lot, ramble the way that children that age are prone to do. In most if not all of the cases shown, their enthusiasm seems to come from themselves rather than pushy parents. And while parental intensity can be a lot less fun than the kids' in these stories, what we see of them is often less pushy than having to learn how to handle very talented kids - and even that is somewhat in the background.

Full review at EFC.

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