Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Need for a Tennis Movie

There are movies about everything, and sports sometimes can be a great theme to go with whether it's a comedy, romantic, or action movie. Tennis however gets the short end of the stick when it comes to sports movies. Over the past couple decades there have been only about 2 that I know of that have stood out: "Wimbledon" (2005) and "The Break" (1995).

Most people should know "Wimbledon." It's got Kirsten Dunst and Paul Bettany, and was released in the theaters. It also has some cameo appearances by John McEnroe, Mary Carillo, and Murphy Jensen. Overall the movie did pretty well as most romantic comedies do. For me it was a win-win. My girlfriend got to see a chick-flick and I got to see tennis. Granted, I was pointing out tennis errors left and right, but tennis was still played.

"The Break" is a lesser known movie and the only reason I really know about it was because I remember seeing parts of it on HBO. I haven't seen the whole movie, and I'm not sure I'll even get the opportunity too because I can't find it anywhere. Even so, it's got Martin Sheen in it, so it has some credibility.

But other than that, there's nothing. How can tennis, a global sport, not have that many successful movies? Golf has a ton (Tin Cup, Caddyshack, Happy Gilmore), and even a few lesser known or played sports have taken center stage. Let's take a look at some of these:

Dodgeball- Usually known for being played in gym class, Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller took the sport of dodgeball and made it it explode in the US with their movie by the same name: "Dodgeball." Soon after "Dodgeball" came out, many adult leagues were formed and the sport grew exponentially.

Karate- "
The Karate Kid" came out when I was 2, so I don't know the impact, but I'm sure it must have impacted the sport. The sequels weren't as good as the original, but they certainly didn't hurt the growth of the sport. The movie was great, and should have gotten a ton of kids to take karate. I'd like to say "Sidekicks" did the same, but I can't.

Arm-Wrestling- Sylvester Stallone, my favorite actor, came out with "
Over the Top," in 1987. Again, I was 5 then, so I'm not sure of the impact, and I only saw it when I was in college. But this movie, despite being a cult classic, had to have impacted people to get them to want to arm wrestle.

These three sports had great movies, and 2 of them are individual sports like tennis. So how can it be that much different. Why not make a tennis movie?

An obvious reason has to be because tennis is a skill sport. Any actor can go out there and throw a baseball, hit a golfball or sink a three-pointer, but it takes a little bit more to look like a world-class tennis player. That's why they had use a ton of CGI in "Wimbledon." So you need actors that are also tennis players or vice versa. That can't be too hard to find right?

And of course, you need a good plot. Want some ideas Hollywood? How about:

1. A Historical Movie. I know there have to be some Venus/Serena movie scripts in the works. Or how about one about Arthur Ashe? I think they tried to do a TV movie on the Battle of the Sexes and it didn't work out so well. Even better though would be a movie that took place in an earlier time period with wooden racquets and such.

2. The Tennis Business. It doesn't have to be about a player, it could easily be about the ATP Board Room like a "
Jerry McGuire" type movie.

3. A Spoof. Baseketball was a good movie and you can't make a comedy about tennis? Come on! Still, you could easily make a spoofy movie with tennis. Take 2 out of the three in the "Frat Pack" (Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Vince Vaughn) and either team them up or have them oppose each other. Make a team concept spoofing World Team Tennis.

4. Cinderella Story. Hollywood has a lot of these already and "Wimbledon" and "The Break" were already ones. Still, they always seem to do well, just put some sort of unique twist on it, like make it a college or high school story as opposed to the pro's.

5. Comedy. It doesn't have to be a spoof to make you laugh. You could easlily do one that takes place in a tennis camp and have some zany tennis instructor as the lead character.

Someone needs to take charge and develop a tennis movie. I'd like to say the USTA, but they've got enough on their plate, especially if they're reconsidering my suggestion for the US Open Series. And I don't have enough money to finance a movie. But if anybody's willing to give it a shot, let me know. Stallone and I will take over the tennis world!