National Lampoon's Blackball Cover Behind my parents house there was a massive  park. And in that park there was a bowling green. I was beautiful it was. Many a day I would stroll through this vast space, and gaze at many a gent bowling to his hearts content. “Strange game” I thought to myself “Throwing a strange black ball towards a small white one at the end of the green”. But it made the old folk’s happy. Just like this film will make you happy if  you watch it. This one; Directed by Mel Smith; and Starring Paul Kaye, Bernard Cribbins, Johnny Vegas, Alice Evans, James Cromwell, and Vince Vaughn. It was made in 2003, and lasts for a whole 93 minutes.

National Lampoon's Blackball

Bad boy from Torquay, Cliff Starkey (Paul Kaye), is a complete tosser. He tosses paint onto walls with his painter and decorator Granddad, Mutley (Bernard Cribins), to earn a bit of cash. He talks a lot of toss with his overweight housemate and friend, Trevor (Johnny Vegas), whenever can find the time. Plus on top of that, Cliff is really marvelous at tossing bowling balls along the ground for the sheer hell of it.

Heck! Cliff if so good at tossing balls, that he enters a rather conservative tournament nearby, and manages to beat the sh*t out of the competition. Winning outright against one of Torquay’s finest bowlers, Ray Speight (James Cromwell), who is also the father of the bird Cliff fancies too, Kerry, (Alice Evans).

However, in hindsight, this win does bring Cliff both a mixture of good luck and bad luck not so long thereafter. You see, where the bad is concerned, sore-loser Ray quickly gets Cliff banned from entering any more bowling completions, due to the fact that he 'defaced a score card' during his time playing the game. Though where the good is concerned, due to this ban, Cliff becomes an overnight celebrity, thrusting him into the media spot-light at a drop of a hat.

Pretty amazing turn of event's, right? That's what American promoter, Rick Scheartz (Vince Vaughn), thinks anyway. And that is why he takes Cliff under his wing, and then uses him as a commodity to promote the game of bowling, just like a pimp would his hoe.

OK, so this may sound like a strange thing to say. But once again, this positive outcome does have a rather up and down momentum for poor Cliff the tosser. On the one hand, he gets to grow closer to Kerry. He hires Trevor to be his body-guard. And he has a jolly good time throwing ball and playing games. On the other hand though, he starts to push Trevor and Kerry away. His granddad has a stroke. And he is cajoled into entering a prestigious competition with his arch enemy, Ray.

Ouch! I suppose that is why what next transpires rolls down the green when two opposing forces clash? As Australians mumble - tossers grumble - families unite - and somethings do turn out alright.

Kind of.

'National Lampoons - Blackball' is one of those comedies that has it all. It is full of drama, pathos, comedy, and characterization, whilst at the same time being able to adapt a true-life story in a very satirical way. Moreover, I suppose on some level it is also a generational story as well. Elaborating on how the old guard and the new guard should tolerate each other’s ways and mannerisms. Whilst on another level, it is a sports story to boot. Commenting on how sportsmen have to make sacrifices if they want to succeed in tournament life. Plus in addition to this, on yet another level, it is about the media industry too. Detailing how the ‘behind the scenes money men’ can manipulate image and then use this to earn a bit of extra cash.

Overall though, it is just a silly comedy film really.

The Ying and Yang of National Lampoon's Blackball

Granted, a very watch-a-ble silly comedy film. And one that is acted superbly by Peter, Johnny, Bernard, Alice, and especially Vince. All of them managing to plug into the same zeitgeist that this film is trying to convey, and present a timeless piece of work that is both accommodating and fun to watch. Well, if you are a big fan of such films as 'Dodgeball' 'Caddyshack', or 'Blades of Glory', this flick will defiantly be your cup of tea (click on links for review).

But it must be English tea. Because it is a English film.


Here, check out this filmic-facts to see what I mean: (1) Johnny Vegas is one of the only members of the cast who can actually play bowls. But he does not into do so in this film. (2) Amongst others comedians, the director of this picture, Mel Smith, was once Rowan Atkinsons (i.e. Mr Beans) comedy partner in the eighties skit show 'Not The Nine O'Clock News'. (3) The Torquay bowling green used in this film is famous for being one of the only places situated in between a cultivated garden and a sea front. (4) Bernard Cribbin had musical success in the pop charts with the song 'Hole in the Ground'. It reached number nine in the UK. (5) This movie was based on the true story of bowler, Griff Sanders, who was thrown out of the Torquay Bowls Club for 'improper conduct'. This included writing the word 'tosser' on the back of a score card. (6) Alice Evans is married to Ioan Gruffudd who played Reed Richards in the 'Fantastic Four' film. (7) Due to a brawl in 2001, Vince Vaughn was banned from 'Wilmington, N.C. bars', and forced to undergo alcohol assessment and fined $250. (8) Mel realized just five minutes before filming this project that everyone was absolutely useless at playing lawn bowls. (9) In his youth, Johnny Vegas trained to be a priest for a short while. (10) James Cromwell first film role was in the All-Star British comedy 'Murder By Death' . (11) The tagline for this project "At last a sportsman the British can be proud of..." is actually written "aT last a spOrtSman the britiSh can bE pRoud of...". With the capitalized letters spelling the word 'Tosser'. And (12) Paul Kaye is a lifelong fan of Arsenal football club. He even writes for the Official Magazine once a month.

The Woman in National Lampoon's Blackball

Now although this is a great comedy, however, I am sad to say that there are one or two little down sides with ‘National Lampoons - Blackball’. The first pitfall being that the ‘love story’ is a bit too predictable within this yarn. Giving it a play it by numbers air of 'seen it all before'. And the second one being that it does feel a bit fractured in places. Having that stop / start quality that is jarring at times, as if the comedy and the story are physically fighting with each other.

Though I suppose this latter aspect does bestow onto it rather punk-ish vibe. Like another comedy-bio-pic '24 Hour Party People' for example. One which inadvertently elevates the overall piece to great satirical proportions.

Anyway, all in all this is a really nice family film. The cast is great. The story-line is silly. Plus the music is funky too. Very funky.


NATIONAL LAMPOON'S BLACKBALL NATIONAL LAMPOON'S BLACKBALL Reviewed by David Andrews on July 31, 2012 Rating: 5
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