Tin Cup had a weird early premiere at the local Valhalla golf course. The PGA Championship was in town as a push to help promote the brand-new golf course. A few weeks later, I got to see Tin Cup and shrugged. What was I expecting? 16 year olds in the 90s didn’t care about golf. The only 16 year old I know that digs golf is because he’s going to land major scholarships. So, what does it mean to people who only associate golf with Caddyshack?
Golf movies are usually divided into two camps: funny and straight. Funny movies have lovable losers using golf as a backdrop for their shenanigans. Then, there are the movies that play everything straight. Golf is a metaphor for life and a 62 score is going to get the lead character’s life back on track. Tin Cup falls squarely in the middle.
Kevin Costner was an odd part of the 1990s. The guy was everywhere after Dances with Wolves blew up and then I got to read thinkpieces about why it’s good. It’s an over-bloated piece of shit that deserves the lambasting that Heaven’s Gate caught even though Heaven’s Gate is a far better film. The Bodyguard, Robin Hood and Wyatt Earp came and then Costner reteamed with his Bull Durham director to tackle golf.
Sports cinema is always a hard push for certain audiences. For ages, I hated Bull Durham. Then, I aged into it right when the Criterion release hit. For years, I had always been a big fan of one scene and then scrapped the rest of it as baseball 80s bloat. It’s easy for people to do that when it’s not your sport. Hell, you could drop the best Lacrosse film in history on me, I don’t think I’d give a damn.
Golf in cinema requires an active viewing audience to appreciate the passive nature of a sport that eludes most of society. The realm of golf is a field of status and wealth that doesn’t quite catch on with the lower and middle classes. So, it’s hard to buy driving range owner Kevin Costner as an underdog. He’s still a genius golf player who happens to stumble in free help from Rene Russo.
What Tin Cup gets right is making you see Don Johnson and Kevin Costner as equally skeevy rival golfers. Both aren’t above showboating and screwing around with fans. It’s how they view themselves that makes the difference. Still, it’s 55 minutes into the movie before you get an inkling of this concept. That’s too long and it’s played rather lame.
Also, what happened with Ron Shelton? The guy took a 14 year break after Hollywood Homicide, but never returned to this kind of movie. Shelton gets sports and what I wouldn’t give to see him make something like Cobb again. Films like Tin Cup are too easy. Make a film about niche interests and hope the wide coverage is enough to land somewhere near what you had with Bull Durham. It’s kinda lazy.
Warner Archive brings a Blu-ray that kinda kills it on a movie that everyone but your dad forgot about until now. The Blu-ray comes with no special features. But, you get a transfer that looks better than any print I can remember seeing. Plus, how about that DTS-HD 5.1 master audio track?
Movies like this aren’t historically important, but they are important components in bringing film fans into the wonder of Warner Archive. You start them with an easy watch like Tin Cup and then they’re wanting to see The Stalking Moon. Movies like Tin Cup serve a place in bringing new viewers into understanding cinema history. Be a pal and grab a copy for your dad, uncle or grandfather. One of them is bound to like golf.