May 25, 2011


I do not like most sports movies. They are too predictable. After a series of defeats, zany situations, general hilarity, and the realization that team spirit is in itself a victory rally good to triumph.

But I saw “Win Win” Sunday despite the title because I wanted to escape reality for a few hours, preferably amidst air-conditioning.

“Win Win” is amazing. I rank my top 25 sports movies of all-time at the end of this column, and “Win Win” comes in 11th.

Like “The Hustler” and “Raging Bull,” “Win Win” is only marginally about sports.

Paul Giamatti, who looks like a sportswriter, is Mike Flaherty, a storefront New Jersey lawyer. The store isn’t doing well. So he cheats. He tells a judge he’ll serve as guardian for an old guy named Leo (Burt Young).

Leo’s brain is going but his savings account is healthy. Leo wants to stay in the house he has long owned. But Flaherty stashes him in an old folk’s home and cashes a $1,500 monthly guardian check.

Leo’s daughter is in rehab in Ohio, and her son, Kyle, escapes to New Jersey to move in with Leo. Kyle (Alex Shaffer) dyes his hair Ric Flair blond, has a black eye, and he smokes. Since the kid can’t stay in the retirement home, he ends up with Flaherty and his family.

Flaherty coaches the local high school wrestling team, which is even less successful than his law practice. Turns out Kyle is a former Ohio wrestling star, and he becomes a star for Flaherty.

The wrestling ordering prednisone online scenes are thrilling, which is a surprise since the grappling I watch tends to involve sequined robes and metal folding chairs.

“Win Win” is warm and moving and funny. The crowd at the Regal Ballantyne Village Stadium 5 occasionally cheered aloud. Instead of sitting in plush seats, we were on high school gymnasium bleachers.

Shaffer’s previous acting experience includes one high school play. In real life he’s a 119-pound New Jersey high school wrestling star. Kyle is a 119-pound New Jersey wrestling star. The longer the movie goes, the more human Kyle becomes.

Four notes about my movie rankings:

The Last time I did this, I left out “Hoosiers.” I forgot about it. I did a radio interview about the column with a station in Los Angeles and the hosts were incredulous that I omitted “Hoosiers” and extremely condescending. So I told them “Hoosiers” wasn’t good enough to make my list, even though “Happy Gilmore” did. I had a blast.

“Rudy” is not in my top 25 because I met Rudy when he spoke at the Charlotte Touchdown Club. You know what Rudy does for a living? He’s Rudy.

Our conversation went like this. RUDY: Hi, I’m Rudy. ME: What do you for a living these days, Rudy? RUDY: I’m Rudy. ME: Good, I’m Tom. But what do you do? RUDY: I’m Rudy. Get off the bench!

“Waterboy” is fun and can be interpreted at various levels. Adam Sandler challenge the viewer. His most important, is not easy.

The film that I have I left out.

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