[box cover]

Tin Cup

Warner Home Video

Starring Kevin Costner, Renee Russo
Cheech Marin, and Don Johnson

Written by John Norville and Ron Shelton
Directed by Ron Shelton

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Roy "Tin Cup" McAvoy (Kevin Costner) is a golf pro in only the loosest sense of the term. He runs a rickety driving range in Salome, Texas, where armadillos are more common than customers, and the terrain is more sand trap than green. Once a prodigious college player, Roy never lived up to his potential. Plagued by "inner demons" — he could never play it safe when a win was in sight — he considers his life of drastic underachievement as a sort of poetic exile, where he's free to philosophize about the game while never under the threat of accomplishing anything.

But then Roy meets Dr. Molly Griswold (Rene Russo). She wants to learn to hit the ball, and Roy is instantly smitten with the sexy psychologist who sees right through his unshaven, beer-stained coma, even though she's oblivious to her own equally crippling neuroses. But as far as Roy is concerned, her only problem is her boyfriend, an old college teammate of Roy's, David Simms (Don Johnson), who is now a Pro Tour regular who lacks the cutting edge to pick up a trophy. Simms' smug superiority stokes Roy's competitive fires, and he decides the only way he can win Molly's respect — and heart — is to beat Simms in the US Open.

Tin Cup is a terrific comedy. It's full of original laughs and smartly written characters, despite the familiarity of its situations. Writer-director Shelton, once a minor-league baseball player, and easily the best sports-film maker working today, shows an uncannily aware understanding of golf and golfers, as well as human nature. The complexly skewered psychologies of the people in Tin Cup are enough to elevate this film into the rarified category of those that can be watched again and again with no deterioration of enjoyment.

But Tin Cup accomplishes something even greater, setting it alongside The Natural in the pantheon of great sports movies. Unlike The Natural, though, which celebrates the mythology of sport, Tin Cup captures the real, human essence of competition. While it's full of the male-competitive-urge braggadocio and man-vs.-self turmoil that most sports films are content to examine, Tin Cup delves into deeper territory. At its most sublime, enthralling, and stirring moments, Shelton's movie captures the desperate meta-competition lurking in every athlete's subconscious — competition with the gods; the idea that not mere victory, but unattainable perfection, is within human reach. It may only last for a moment, and it may happen at the mercy of tangible success, but it is possible to experience the religious thrill of "the perfect golf swing."

Costner is great as Roy McAvoy, showing such humility and comic dexterity it makes you wince to consider his oft-indulged soft spot for the heroically serious dullards he plays in films like Waterworld and The Untouchables. Light romantic comedy is the genre in which Costner thrives most, and it's hard to imagine anybody else as McAvoy. Russo matches him well, and they have lots of chemistry together. Johnson turns in his best film work yet, as does Cheech Marin as Romeo, McAvoy's caddy and best friend. Also with cameo appearances by several of golf's biggest names (pre-Tiger Woods, that is).

Full disclosure: I am not a golf nut. I have never played the sport, nor do I care to watch it on television. This movie, however, makes me want to do both. Cinematographer Russell Boyd makes the golf course look like heaven on earth.

Presented in 2.35 widescreen or pan-and-scan and with 5.1 Dolby Digital. Textual supplements, snap-case.

— Gregory P. Dorr

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