Review: The Short Game (Greenbaum, 2013)

Still from the movie Short Game

While not an immersive, perspective-altering documentary by any means, Short Game, a film that follows eight 8-and-under golfers–3 girls and 5 boys–during the months leading up to the extremely competitive U.S. Kids Golf World Championship in Pinehurst, NC, is nonetheless entertaining, which, as I mentioned before, watching children always is. It’s something about the combination of mock maturity (made farcical by their innocent, sincere mimicry of adulthood) and plain old childhood tomfoolery that can’t help but delight. (In one introductory scene, South African Zamokuhle Nxasana leaps, trots, bounds across the screen, imitating different African animals.)

The kids showcased in this documentary run the gamut from the stereotypical parent-driven talent one usually assumes is every elite child athlete (Amari “Tigress” Avery) to ridiculously self-driven and confident Allan Kournikova (kid brother of former tennis star Anna Kournikova) to autistic savant Jed Dy. And the parents are typically almost as interesting as their children (though usually less likable), trying to balance their own competitiveness and very real desire with the emotional needs of these kids. Not surprisingly, the most consistently successful children appear to have the most reasonable parents.

Stretched between so many subjects, though, the film tends to lose its focus. The five- to ten-minute snippets showcasing each player are not much more revealing than the bios featured in shows like American Idol. Then, during the footage of the tournament, which is divided by age group, the film is not always clear about who is competing with whom, leading to a sort of garbled and diffuse narrative.

Short Game is amusing to watch on a weekend afternoon with like-minded friends, but nothing you need to go out of your way to see. (Available on Netflix.)