National Lampoon's Black Ball, from First Look Pictures, is centered around the sport of Lawn Bowls. Lawn bowls? What the heck is lawn bowls? My wife and I both turned to each as if to ask the same question, and I'm willing to bet that most people in the US would be asking the same thing. Apparently, it's a game where you roll a wood ball that looks to be about the size of a grapefruit (called a bowl) across the lawn in an attempt to hit a smaller sphere ball that looks kind of like a billiard ball (called a jack), and whoever gets their bowl closest to the jack scores a point. Alrighty then....
Apparently, bowls is a game thought to be primarily played by old people, probably because there is very little movement involved. Cliff Starkey (played by Paul Kaye), however, is a young guy who is not only supremely passionate about the game of bowls, but happens to be an extremely talented player, definitely better than the entire English chapter and most likely one of the best in the world. And if that wasn't enough, he also knows how to entertain, how to work an audience and show off for the crowds.
Unfortunately, the elderly members of the English bowls chapter don't agree with this over-the-top attitude and energy of Starkey's, and so, after he already qualified to play in the championship, they disqualified him on a technicality and banned him from the game for 15 years, allowing the former English champion to maintain his title. And to make things worse, Starkey is falling in love with the man's daughter. But things do take a turn for the better when he meets an agent who promises to take Starkey to the top and make him a superstar. Will Starkey make it big, get the girl, and live his dreams?
The best way to describe National Lampoon's Blackball would be a cross between Happy Gilmore and every other movie ever made about a talented young person who becomes a star, gets a big head, loses their friends, realizes what's important, and makes everything okay. So yeah, it's very, VERY predictable. But then again, you usually don't watch comedies for amazing storytelling, you watch them for the laughs, and this film delivered some laughs.
It's called National Lampoon's Blackball, but it really didn't feel like a National Lampoon's movie to me. It didn't feel like the same style of comedy that I've come to expect from Animal House, Vacation, Van Wilder, or even Senior Trip for that matter. There were some really great laugh-out-load moments, but most of the comedy was more like chuckle or saying "that was funny", and there never seemed to be any outrageousness (wow, I didn't know that was actually a word). I mean, there wasn't even a single boob shot! It's almost like National Lampoon just took a comedy that was already made and put their name on it..
One place it definitely came from, though, was England, as noticeable by most of the cast's strong accents. Several times we found ourselves looking at each other trying to figure out what the heck was just said in the conversation. Rewinding usually didn't help, and unfortunately the screener disc didn't have any subtitles available. Not that this made any difference story-wise, but there could have been some jokes in there that we missed. So other than not being able to understand some of the character part of the time, the acting was up to par with this style of film.
After all is said and done, this is really just another excuse not to do your chores on the weekend. There's really no need to see this movie, but if you do happen to catch it you will have some laughs and be entertained for and hour and a half. We liked Happy Gilmore and Dodgeball much better, but if you haven't seen those movies yet then you may find this film more enjoyable than we did. Then afterwards go check out those flicks and you'll really be in for a treat.
National Lampoon's Black Ball is being released by First Look Pictures on DVD starting February 15, 2005, and stars Paul Kaye, James Cromwell, Alice Evans, and Vince Vaughn. Even First Look Pictures doesn't seem to know if the official title is "Black Ball" or "Blackball".