Whatever we might think of Costner's acting skills (on par with Arnold Schwarznegger and Keanu Reeves), there's no denying his love for sports. That love of sports has led him to star in five sports themed movies, four of which are among the best sports movies of all time. The last one was pretty bad (though I did get lucky with the girl I took to see it so maybe it wasn't all for nothing) and I can't recommend it to anybody. In order of release his sports movies are:
American Flyers (1985)
Bull Durham (1988)
Field of Dreams (1989)
Tin Cup (1996)
For Love of the Game (1999)
Between them his sports movies have won four Oscars and one Razzie. His best sports movies are those that are less about the sport and more about the people. Follow me below the fold as I explain more.
Two brothers challenge the road. And life itself.
They're four one-of-a-kind people taking a chance...and going after a dream that will change their lives forever
The movie really isn't about cycling, even though that's a major plot point. What drives the movie is the relationship between brothers Marcus (played by Kevin Costner) and David, and their mother. Marcus is a motivated, driven individual who works as a highly successful sports physician. David is the complete opposite--he's lazy and rude and won't put forth any effort into getting anything done. Marcus invites David to his sports clinic to take some tests. Apparently there's a history of fatal brain aneurysms in the family (their father had died from one), and he thinks David has got one.
When the tests come back clear the relieved Marcus convinces David to train with him for a grueling bicycle race in the Rockies. Mid-way through the training Marcus collapses--turns out he's the one with the aneurysm, not David. Marcus has to stand by and watch while David finishes the race.
It's not exactly unique as far as plotlines go, but what makes this movie special is the likeable performance of Kevin Costner and the fine directing by John Badham (who also directed Saturday Night Fever and War Games).
Smileyman's grade: 3 out 5 stars. Worth watching if you can get past the cliches.
Trailer (not really the official trailer. Some fan put together scenes from the movie to the theme song).
"Do you want to get thrown out of here?
Bull Durham (1988)
A Major League Love Story in a Minor League Town
It's all about sex and sport. What else is there?
Romance is a lot like baseball. It's not whether you win or lose. It's how you play the game.
A movie about America's other favorite pastime
Kevin Costner stars as Crash Davies, an over the hill minor league catcher who keeps on keeping on with the sport that he loves. Crash is brought over from another team to help mentor a young pitcher (played by Tim Robbins) who has plenty of potential but lots of immaturity on the field. Susan Sarandon plays the groupie of the minor league team. Again the movie is more about the relationship between the three (and their individual character developments) than it is about the sport of baseball.
Bull Durham would win an Oscar for best screenplay.
Smileyman's review: 5 out of 5 stars
Bull Durham is my favorite baseball movie ever and one of my top 10 favorite sports movies. It certainly helps that it's about the minor leagues instead of the major leagues and it doesn't hurt that it co-stars Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon. Both Costner and Robbins inhabit their characters fully. One of my favorite scenes in Bull Durham is set during a game. Robbins is mouthing off to Costner, so Costner decides to teach him a lesson and tips the opposing batter off to the pitch count. (It's much more fun to watch than it is to read about).
"I need a live rooster"
"Do you want to get thrown out of here?"
Field of Dreams
All his life, Ray Kinsella was searching for his dreams. Then one day, his dreams came looking for him.
If you believe the impossible, the incredible can come true.
I think most everybody has seen this and knows the plot. Ray Kinsella is working in his corn field one day when he hears a voice saying "If you build, he will come". He has no idea what it means at first, but he figures out that he needs to build a baseball diamond in his corn field. He's also told to "Ease his pain". Ray assumes that these voices are referring to the Chicago 7, but in reality they are referring to his estranged father.
This movie is about healing relationships between a father and son. Baseball is the means through which this is accomplished.
Smileyman's review: 4 out 5 stars
Yeah it won a Best PIcture but I didn't like it that much. Parts of it still feel overblown to me, though I do love the bits that have Archie "Moonlight" Graham in them (both as an old man and as young baseball player). The closing speech at the end by James Earl Jones is wonderful, and the closing shot with the miles and miles of cars is stunning.
"Go the Distance"
Golf pro. Love amateur.
Roy 'Tin Cup' McAvoy (Kevin Costner) is a washed up golf pro who lives in a run down trailer and owns and manages with his partner Romeo (Cheech Marin). He eventually takes on a new pupil who happens to a hot psychiatrist. To win her respect he tries out for the US Open and makes it. He's competing in a tournament in NC and has a solid chance at winning it on the last hole of the last day when he decides to go for the big splash instead of playing it safe.
Smileyman's Review: 5 out 5 stars
I love this movie. Roy McAvoy is a similar character to that of Crash (from Bull Durham). I love the relationship between him and Rene Russo (the hot psychiatrist), and how he deals with finally growing up.
"Lay it up Roy!"
For Love of the Game
Billy Chapel must choose between the woman he loves and the game he lives for.
Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner) is a washed up pitcher who's nearly done with his career. At the age of 40 he's been in the major leagues a long time and has let his personal life go by the wayside. Before his last start his on again, off again girlfriend tells him that she's leaving for a job in London. The owners of his team tell him that they're planning on trading him, and he has to decide if he's going to leave the game he loves or accept the trade. The story is told in a series of flashbacks as Chapel strives to pitch a perfect game.
Smileyman's review: 2 out of 5 stars
This is really, really bad, even for Kevin Costner. The plot isn't so bad--cliched, but most sports movies are full of cliches. The story telling device is a series of flashbacks that take place as Costner gets ready for his big game and has he's playing through it, and they don't work well. You don't get a sense of either story because they're constantly being broken up. Just as you're starting to get into the personal stuff it flashes back to the game, and once you're back into the game it flashes back to the personal stuff.
The other issue I have is with the storyline itself. It's really a selfish story line. Bull Durham was about an older player mentoring a younger player. Field of Dreams was about reconciliation with a father. Tin Cup was about growing up and accepting adulthood. American Flyers was about reconciling with family.
For Love of the Game is about a washed up pitcher reminiscing about his life. In better hands that might turn out ok, but not in Costner's.