“The Long Game” review: Underdogs and golfers | WORLD
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The Long Game

MOVIE | Latino boys in 1950s Texas learn to “play the ball where it lies”

Jay Hernandez and Dennis Quaid in The Long Game Mucho Mas Media Releasing

<em>The Long Game</em>
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It’s hard to make a great sports movie, and it’s even harder if the subject is golf, with its slow pace and lack of drama. In The Long Game, director Julio Quintana has excellent source material in the real-life story of five Mexican-American high school students who overcome racial and socioeconomic prejudice to break into the high school golf world in 1950s Texas.

Jay Hernandez stars as J.B. Pena, a school superintendent with real golfing talent who can’t even get admitted to the local high-toned golf club. “I’m sorry son, our members just aren’t used to seeing a Mexican on the golf course,” unashamedly admits the club’s director. That is of course, unless the Mexican is a caddie like the five high school students, or a groundskeeper like Pollo (Cheech Marin). Several times, Pena, a Marine corps veteran who served in Korea, has to remind people that he is indeed an American: Just one who happens to be of Mexican descent.

Unable to play on regular grounds, the five boys—Joe, Lupe, Felipe, Mario and Jean—have built their own short course on vacant land outside of town. The single hole is a par 3 on the way out, and a par 4 on return play, with cactuses and brush substituting for sand traps and water hazards. A humorous chance encounter with Pena leads to the boys meeting another golf enthusiast, well regarded instructor Frank Mitchell (Dennis Quaid). After witnessing the boys’ talent and work ethic, Frank is all in, and along with Coach Pena, helps the boys to form San Felipe High School’s first ever golf team.

As the team progresses from startup to contender, the coaches have the chance to teach the young men how an honorable man faces challenges, and how one has to “play the ball where it lies,” even when things don’t seem fair. Viewers accustomed to today’s laws and standards might be shocked at how blatant the discrimination was against Latinos in the 1950s. Just entering a golf tournament for high schools was nearly impossible, and fellow competitors, along with officials and organizers, were not quick to embrace the young men of a different background. 

While its plot is fairly predictable, The Long Game is well written and acted. The content is mostly family friendly, although regrettably there is some misuse of the Lord’s name, including the first words out of Frank Mitchell’s mouth.

But overall the film has a positive message about character and perseverance. It does a service in reminding us that while God created all men equal, sinful men continually find ways to play favorites.

Marty VanDriel Marty is a TV and film critic for WORLD. He is a graduate of World Journalism Institute and CEO of a custom truck and trailer building company. He and his wife, Faith, reside in Lynden, Wash., near children and grandchildren.


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