I have never been a big fan of sports comedies, let alone ones about golf. Golf ranks as one of my least favorite sports, not just to watch but to attempt to play as well. The first and last time I ever held a driver, the club flew out of my hands and up and over the awning and landed on the range owner’s car. Sadly, that’s a true story, and relevant since “Tin Cup” is a sports comedy film about golf. Even more surprising is that it’s a really good sports comedy film about golf. Comprised of sharp, witty writing and charismatic characters, it may have all the predictability of its genre cliches, but executes them just good enough to be a solid and funny sports film.
Starring Kevin Costner, Don Johnson, Rene Russo and Cheech Marin, “Tin Cup” follows Roy McAvoy (Costner) as a washed up, former golf prodigy living on a run down driving range in West Texas. Roy is visited by his old college rival David Simms (Johnson) who asked him to take the lowly position as his caddie for a new benefit tournament. He is also visited by Dr. Molly Griswald (Russo) who comes to him for golf lessons and Roy immediately falls for. As fate would have it, she’s dating Simms. After Roy makes an incredible shot that shows up Simms, he is fired but decides to enter the US Open as a way to get back at his old rival. Never one to shy away from a good bet and a challenge, McAvoy’s ego and wild play style may just end getting the better of him.
The first thing that stands out most about “Tin Cup” is just how charming and charismatic Kevin Costner actually is. We often forget that Costner can actually act, with the terrible but lovable “Robin Hood Prince of Thieves” and his lack of an accent being the thing we most remember him for. I’m not saying Costner is a marquee stunner on camera, but he delivers here better than most people would think. To that point, I’d actually recommend “Mr. Brooks,” where he turns in another solid, nuanced and downright disturbing performance. He shines in “Tin Cup,” and with a strong supporting cast, they all elevate the film to be better than it honestly should be. Nobody does smug, overconfident tool like Johnson, and he’s actually more toned down than you think, being a much more believable villain rather than a caricature that he’s often associated with. Russo and Marin are pretty bound by their own tropes, but “Tin Cup” is well written, and they’re both likable enough to be entertaining in spite of these restraints.
The film is written by John Norvell and Ron Shelton, the latter of which has written other sports films like “Bull Durham,” “White Man Can’t Jump,” and “The Great White Hype,” as well as having a hand in action films like “Bad Boys II.” The skills with quill shines bright here, “Tin Cup” being refreshing even though it follows all the rules of the sports comedy genre. It is truly witty and clever in both what’s written and how it’s delivered, with the dialogue whizzing by at rapid but cool pace. You don’t really need to understand anything about golf to enjoy the film, and while its laden with constant golf lingo as the primary catalyst for the film, the dialogue and characters are vulnerable and honest enough that it doesn’t matter in the slightest. It also sports one of my favorite lines regarding therapy of all time. Sure, it’s misguided in its understanding of mental health and what therapy actually is, but it’s still wonderfully written and delivered and contextualized by the characters’ own ignorance.
Honestly, “Tin Cup” is just really good. It’s funny, well written and well acted and easy to watch whether you want to fully invest in a viewing or just have it on as white noise while working on other things. I truthfully forgot how much I enjoyed it, and I’m genuinely glad that I revisited this forgotten gem.
“Tin Cup” is currently available on HBO Max.