Directed by Mel Smith, starring Paul Kaye, James Cromwell, Vince Vaughn, Johnny Vegas, Alice Evans and Bernard Cribbins.
Certainly no easy feat, the stiff upper lip sport of lawn bowls is made to seem sexy and vibrant in 'Blackball'. And regardless of your expectations going in, it's hard to be disappointed by this slightly mad-cap, yet surprisingly true, tale - which ultimately boils down to rich versus poor.
Cliff 'Bad Boy' Starkey (Kaye) comes from the wrong side of town, the ultimate badly-dressed and unconcerned anti-hero that you've seen in other movies except here he is cleverly portrayed as a refreshing alternative to stereotype. He's not the kind of shrewdly marketed 'eye-candy' that you'd expect in such a film. Starkey has edge, and has it in abundance. What's more, he doesn't sell out in his journey to hero status.
Based on the true story of Griff Sanders, banned from competing in lawn bowls and representing his country in 1998, 'Blackball' pokes fun at one of Britain's stuffiest traditions. Refusing to wear the prescribed slacks when he struts his stuff on the perfectly manicured greens of Torquay Bowls Club is the least of Starkey's offences.
Writing derogatory comments on the captain's scorecard, drinking and eating on the green, Starkey begins by taking on the prissy rules of the local arena, before taking on the world. The story is a clichéd one - a young man pulling himself out of the gutter, to prove everyone wrong and break all the rules while doing so. But while it is far-fetched in its magnitude (Starkey becoming an international superstar), the delivery is impeccable with one laugh rolling into another.
As every good struggle needs a devil's advocate, Richard Speight (Cromwell) is the stern champion of the bowls club, whose resistance provides the main thrust of the plot. Throw in a topsy-turvy love story where Starkey crosses over to the posh side of town to try and win the heart of Speight's daughter (Evans) and you've got all the ingredients of a comic rollercoaster.
In their sidekick roles, Johnny Vegas (Starkey's best mate) and Bernard Cribbins (his persecuted granddad) steal the show in some hilarious scenes, as they try to keep the unlikely hero's feet firmly on the ground.
End to end, 'Blackball' delivers quirky one-liners and moves along at a pace that wraps you up in the upbeat story, aided by an excellent soundtrack. Part of its appeal is that, like 'The Full Monty', 'Blackball' is more about real-life than it is about big budget Hollywood and all the trappings. It is a simple, superbly dramatised, story about a real working-class British lad, who wants to teach the upper-class a thing or two and does so convincingly.