Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Bobby Jones—Stroke of Genius

MPAA Rating: PG for language

Reviewed by: Ed Cox
CONTRIBUTOR

Better than Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Drama, Historic
Length:
2 hr. 00 min.
Year of Release:
2004
USA Release:
______
Featuring: James Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ), Malcolm McDowell, Jeremy Northam, Claire Forlani, Aidan Quinn
Director: Rowdy Herrington (A Murder of Crows; Striking Distance)
Producer: Kim Dawson, Tim Moore, John Shepherd
Distributor: Film Foundry Releasing
Copyright, Film Foundry Releasing
Copyright, Film Foundry Releasing
Copyright, Film Foundry Releasing
Copyright, Film Foundry Releasing
Copyright, Film Foundry Releasing
Copyright, Film Foundry Releasing
Relevant Issues
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This film is based on a true story. Overcoming a sickly childhood, Bobby Jones became a golfing phenomenon by the age of 14, later earning the title “Best Golfer in the World.” He won all four major golf tournaments in one year—the Grand Slam—a record that has never been broken. He then stunned the world by retiring from competitive golf in order to devote his time to his wife and family. He was only 28.

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “Before Tiger Woods… before Jack Nicklaus, before professional sports became the behemoth industry it is today, shined one of the most gifted natural athletes the world has ever known. A man whose extraordinary talent and will to win earned him the Grand Slam of golf—a record he still holds to this day—and universal recognition as one of the greatest golfers in history. A reluctant hero, his grace and charm made him one of the popular figures of his day. His name was Bobby Jones.

James Caviezel (The Passion, The Count of Monte Cristo, Frequency) brilliantly portrays Jones in this inspiring story of an extraordinary man struggling to find balance in his life. As a boy, his competitive zeal and mastery of the sport propelled him into the national spotlight drawing huge, even boisterous, crowds to the tournaments he played. But his fiery temper and pressure from family, friends, fans, and press turned his fun into toil. His fierce ambition collided with his personal integrity, and he faced the reality that the hopes, dreams and fortunes of the people he loved the most were being sacrificed for his career. Under this unbearable burden his heroic nature became clear.

Completing degrees in mechanical engineering, English literature and law, he then fell in love with Mary Malone (Claire Forlani—Meet Joe Black, , Mystery Men), and started a family, all the while planning an exit from the competitive world of golf, with hopes of returning to playing it for fun again, as he did as a boy.”

“After playing Jesus, I was attracted to the role of Bobby Jones,” said Caviezel. “He was an extraordinary man who overcame his weaknesses and achieved one of the greatest triumphs in sports history. More importantly, he was a man of integrity and faith—a devoted husband and father. His life shows us that greatness comes from goodness, and having your priorities straight.”

“Bobby Jones—Stroke of Genius” chronicles Jones’ rise to fame: his heavenly golf swing; his dashing smile; his unrivaled intensity, wit and intelligence; and his impeccable integrity—during one major tournament, he admitted to slightly moving his ball before striking it, despite the fact that no one else saw it; the one-stroke penalty cost him the tournament. And yet, Jones’ primary obstacle to greatness were his weaknesses—a spirited temper, a self-imposed perfectionism, grueling stomach pains brought on by stress, and a crippling disease. Through it all, Jones emerges victorious—an inspiring example of human courage in the face of adversity.


Review

Shhh! Mr. Jones is approaching his tee shot…

If it is possible to hit one out of the park in a golf movie, Bobby Jones—“Stroke of Genius” does it with style. It is a wonderfully clean movie with only one glare—some bawdy language on the golf course. However, even this is tolerable as the language is genuine for the characters (any one who has played golf will have heard it before)—“there are just some emotions that cannot be experienced with a golf club in your hand.” As the character of Bobby Jones matures, you see him leaving the things he did as a child (anger, handling frustration, swearing, etc.) but NEVER is the Lord’s name taken in vain.

There are NO temptations to the eye in this film; in fact, Jones runs from temptation a number of times (he receives offers for hotel room keys, dancing with painted ladies, etc.). A drunk offers to buy him a round, and he flatly states “I already have one.” When his date is besmirched with a lymric, he leaves the crowd he came with to chase the one he has found. Bedroom scenes are played out to show the results of the pressure that Bobby is under from tournament play (awakening to run to the bathroom to be sick) instead of anything else.

Mr. Jones’ mother appears to be a follower of astrology, with one childhood teaching vignette and one reference by her in Bobby’s adulthood (see Deuteronomy 18:10). Bobby’s father has his own demons to fight, choosing to run in the opposite direction of his father’s instruction (playing golf on the Sabbath is a recurring theme). Proverbs 22:6 enters here (“Raise up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it”). Bobby’s father obviously does not depart from it in the fact that Bobby himself is taught to live life by a moral code that is hard to find anywhere, let alone in the sporting world.

Mr. Jones’ spiritual state is never dealt with directly in the film, but his actions in life reveal that he was at least raised in a moral home. He honors his father by playing golf, his mother by going to college, his wife by a) clinging only to her (Genesis 2:24) and b) retiring from the game he loves. Mr. Jones’ life is played out with impeccable acting skill by James Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ) who himself honors the character through his approach to the portrayal.

I want to stress just how wonderful this film is. True (as my wife observed) it is a sports movie. After all, Bobby Jones became famous for his golf swing, not his days in court. But that said, it does two things extremely well. First it demonstrates how a man can live his life with honor and virtue and still be successful (sticks in the craw of “nice guys finish last”). Second it surrounds that theme with good theater. While the scenes rarely change (unless you put a coat of paint on the clubhouse of St. Andrews, you are going to recognize it again and again during the course of his life), there is great attention to detail. The golf balls and clubs progress, the cameras used by the press follow suit. The cars and clothes certainly change, but so do the clichéd phrases of the time. Your attention is drawn to the characters, their development and interaction as they learn from life and each other. Oh that more movies would dare to stand for something instead of stand in the way of something.

James Horner wrote a wonderfully understated score for this film, allowing the acting and scenery to carry the day (it would have been very easy to slip in some rocky riffs to really cheese up the production). The bottom line on this film is this is just a flat out wonderful theatrical production and performance. I have mentioned a few things to be ready for (language on the course early in the film, two brief references to astrology), but in very large measure this is a wonderful movie based upon an excellent real-life story. This film is playing to a limited release, so its numbers are not going to be great, which will probably in turn limit its playing time. Take the effort to find it, take the time to go see it. This one is worth full price.

Violence: None / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: None


JIM CAVIEZEL ON PLAYING BOBBY JONES

“I knew very little about Bobby Jones. I just loved the story, and I felt that (despite having just played Jesus) I couldn’t think of a finer man to play. It’s a great film for young people who are trying to find their way. Nowadays, sports stars and other celebrities say, “I’m not your kid’s role model.” It’s an excuse to act however they want. But Bobby Jones wasn’t about that.

He was a man who was flawed, but who had an extraordinary amount of integrity, something money can’t buy. His pureness drew me to him. That’s my own heart, and exactly the kind of character I try to emulate. No man is perfect. In order for a piece of coal to change into a diamond, it has to undergo some serious heat and pressure. Bobby Jones had to learn to control his temper. And he had to struggle with a horrible, crippling disease. Yet he handled his suffering like a champion; never talking about it or complaining.

These are the challenges that forged his character. When you have an ailment as a young person, you have to work harder at things, and that work ethic pays off later in life. People like that tend to excel. The same was true for me in sports. I had to work for it. And acting was the same way. Maybe my work ethic is how I compensate when things didn’t come easy. When life seems unfair, you have to persevere. Bobby Jones would throw his golf clubs out of frustration, and eventually his temper almost cost him his career. But that’s not how the story ends. Bobby Jones overcame his weaknesses. He triumphed, and that’s why this film transcends golf.

In The Passion you saw violence, because violence was a real and important part of the story. With Bobby Jones, we see the reality of a human being who struggles, who has problems like we all do. He suffered a great deal, but he finished well. Bobby Jones played the game of life as well as he played the game of golf. Sports teaches you a lot about lifeàlike the importance of having rules. To succeed in life, God gave us commandments to follow. They’re hard, but we have to try. If we fail, we get back up again and that’s what Bobby did. He learned about life, and about love and family. He learned that there’s more to life than winning championships.”

Watch the trailer at: www.bobbyjones.tv

Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—From the name,you’d think this was just a movie for golf nuts. But even my wife loved it. It’s about so much more than the game of golf. I’d say it’s really about the game of life. Nothing really “Christian” about the movie, and I’d guess to keep the integrity of the Earthy nature of both Jones and the time period, the film is spotted with some cuss words. I’d say it’s not offensive… but not “pure.” But the story line is so inspirational that it will reward both adult and child, athlete and non-athlete.

Great lessons from the life of a great man. Stunning golf scenery. Perhaps the best sports movie since Rocky. Don’t miss it.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—R. Scott, age 45
Positive—This is a great family movie. The only downside is some minor swear words in the early part of the movie that were left in to be true to the character. The movie has some great moral content about overcoming adversity. You could also look at the transformation of Bobby Jones as a pre-Christian to a post-Christian lifestyle as he overcomes his temper. You can also teach your kids a lot about honesty and integrity with this movie.
My Ratings: [Good/5]
—B.G., age 30
Positive—This is an excellent, old fashioned film that your family will enjoy. Little kids would be bored, but a wonderful film, and it’s not just for golfers.
My Ratings: [Good/4½]
—Sarah Modisett Lee, age 38
Positive—I saw this film with my wife and eight year old nephew, who loves golf. Overall, a great movie about golf and some of it’s history. Some objectionable language, but nothing beginning with the letter “F.” No sex at all. It also had a lengthy appearance by Alistaire Begg (Truth For Life radio broadcast). Overall, I’d say go see this movie, but leave the little kids at home.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—BW, age 44
Positive—Very good. It reminded me a little of Sea-Biscuit, but better. Overall, a good film for adults, but children would be bored, though there is nothing offensive.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
—Kat, age 18
Neutral
Neutral—It’s your typical sports story—a young boy becomes fascinated with golf, practices golf, and succeeds in golf. “Miracle” is a much better movie for those who really like sports movies. The young boy imitates the adults and curses a lot, which may offend some parents.
My Ratings: [Average/3]
—Dana
Neutral—Warning! Unless you like hearing words like “shitfire” repeated over and over, then avoid this movie… Though we enjoyed the movie, we did not find it to be inspirational as expected and touted to be. The reason for our great discouragement (and since these comments need to be based on a biblical, Christian worldview) was the repetitive foul language. To hear young Bobby Jones repeatedly saying “shitfire” over and over, plus numerous other curse words used throughout the movie is in no way deserves anything better than an Average rating for morality. And then to hear Alistair Begg, one of the soundest and most popular preachers in world cursing in the movie, was very disheartening. It was certainly not a good Christian testimony from a Pastor to other Christians and the unsaved world. This is not a movie I would let my children watch and if I had known about the repetitive foul language I would not have watched it either…
My Ratings: [Average/3]
—Chris Prang, age 40
Negative
Negative—I read the positive reviews on this Web site and thought I would give this movie a shot. Most of them said it just had some minor cussing in it. Actually it had quite a few curse words and also more alcohol drinking then I can remember ever seeing in a movie. People were drinking liquor throughout the movie, including the hero of the film. Someone else wrote a good review saying that Bobby Jones was man of faith. There was no sign of any faith in this movie except for in his gold four leaf clover that he always wore and rubbed for good luck. In real life he was not a man of faith. It is reported that he became a Catholic a week before he died. I am not judging the man, just the false comments. If you think you will see any type of conversion in this movie or mention of God at all you will be disappointed. If you don’t mind a lot of cussing and drinking in your entertainment then you will enjoy the quality of the movie. A few good morals are portrayed by “Bobby” as he chain smokes, drinks and cusses for most of the movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Jeff, age 36 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—Now, before I voice my comments on this movie, I must say that my perspective and opinions of it are biased, as my uncle was an executive Producer, and I myself was an extra in it. It is probably because I was “closely” related to the production of this movie that my “comments” stretch on for a bit… perhaps turning into more of a review. I am sorry, this film is just very dear to me. Now, to get right into it.

In my mind, (flatly stated) one of the best sports movies of all time, Bobby Jones is a real hole-in-one when it comes to acting, cinematography, and plot. Based on the TRUE story, “Stroke” shows us a Bobby Jones that most people don’t know about. James Caviezel plays Bobby, delivering an excellent performance to show that his role in “Passion” was not a fluke.

First of all, this movie was not only about golf; it was about the struggle of a human being against the pressures of fans, family and… himself. But when the screen changes and we see the fairways and greens of Saint Andrews in Scotland, the audience is certainly treated to a rare spectacle of fine special effects (especially for a non-Hollywood movie). All in all, this is a great movie that shows the intense struggles on and off the course that Bobby Jones endures as he tries to defeat the demons in his life and win a major tournament.

As the story unfolds it becomes evident that the only way Jones will be able to get over the hump on the course is if he holds back the anger that controls him. Claire Forlani delivers a pretty good performance as Bobby Jones’ wife; someone who has her life balanced and her priorities clearly defined. An example to us all, her character is one that we don’t see too often in the movie industry.

Other sterling roles were provided by Malcolm McDowell as he plays the grandfatherly-like O.B. Keeler, a sportswriter who is one of Bobby’s biggest fans… but also a strong critic (in a good way). Bob Rice (some will know him from Remember the Titans) is perhaps one of the best actors in this particular film, driving the story with his Passion and emotions. Surprisingly, with a budget of less than 18 million dollars, “Stroke” is a cinematic feat providing great effects and excellent camera work on the golf course.

The musical score by James Horner (Titanic, Braveheart and many others) is masterful, with bagpipes and prominent celtic themes that move the emotions of all. How the Director got someone like Horner to do this music on a 18 million dollar budget is beyond me, though. The script is good too, though riddled with cussing, and it is rumored that the script-writer (Rowdy Harrington) slipped in some of these “zesty” words after MPAA had already dubbed it with a PG rating. In my humble opinion this film should have received a PG-13 rating for the cussing alone. There are NO other objectional elements AT ALL, though!

“Stroke of Genius” is out of the the US theatres now, but it may be released once again nation-wide. World-wide it is still to be released in many areas. Check it out if you’re a golf fan, a Bobby Jones fan, a James Caviezel fan, a James Horner fan, or just love a good movie in general. This is a non-Hollywood flick that is definitely worth seeing.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Sam Van Eerden, age 15
Movie Critics
…A gorgeous, moving look at one of the world’s greatest athletes. The best story about courage and determination since The Rookie. Caviezel hits a “hole-in-one” performance. You don’t have to be a golf fan to love Bobby Jones…
—Dean Richards, WGN TV, Chicago
…A superlative achievement, one of the best sports movies ever made! Jim Caviezel, Malcolm McDowell, Jeremy Northam, Claire Forlani, and Brett Rice deliver Oscar-worthy performances. James Horner’s score is magnificent!…
—Tom Snyder, Movie Guide
…This movie has beautiful shots and music. It’s a great story and well portrayed by the actors…
—Eliza Cost, E!
…This film is for anyone who believes in perseverance of the human spirit… When you leave that movie, you are on fire, ready to take on the world, and to me, you know you have seen a good movie when that happens…
—Rick Silanskas, Daily Sun, Orlando
…can score with the entire family.
—Stan Urankar, Sun Newspapers of Cleveland
…If you can describe this movie with one word, it would be “quaint.” It offers the sensibility of “Seabiscuit” without sending your pulse racing…
—Bill Muller, The Arizona Republic