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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Games > Bowling > A League Of Ordinary Gentleman (Documentary/Bowling)

A League Of Ordinary Gentleman (Documentary/Bowling)


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: C+     Documentary: B



Bowling is one of the great games that people used to celebrate, embrace and love.  By the late 1970s, this game (also referred to with at least some validity as a sport) was in decline, but it was not that long ago that it was the #1 sports/game event on TV and across the country, it was the hottest thing in many a town.  Early on in Chris Browne’s 2005 documentary A League Of Ordinary Gentleman, one of the people interviewed about bowling’s past compares their decline in a profound moment to the decline of another great American institution that we here at the site know and love: the motion picture drive-in.


The one strong common denominator between the two is the amount of extra space you need for both.  Needless to say with the urban and suburban sprawl of endless malls and cut-rate (and often cut-throat) discount stores, drive-ins disappeared faster, but bowling alleys have survived better and in some greater number.  This program starts by being a tribute to the glory days of bowling, how it was a heart & soul family thing, as well as “guys” thing and something so many people enjoyed.  Is it any surprise that its decline began as the industrial age was eclipsed by the information age and as the working class began to get the short shrift in the 1980s?


Either way, what is fun eventually becomes a big business, so what was a big business and big fun to begin with has to have some way of coming back.  After fine coverage about those glory days, the project uncovers the dark decline including ABC ending their highly profitable and successful association with the PBA (Professional Bowling Association) as they “moved on” into that information age.  One thing the program misses is that ABC started as the #3 network and was that way until the 1970s, when someone finally overtook CBS.  The PBA contracts helped make them a great survivor and not another short-lived DuMont Network.


The darker side of the tale continues as a few rich men buy the PBA and try to rebuild it.  Can they do it?  Will it be the same?  Can it be profitable?  Well, bowling itself never totally died and is as fun as ever.  Besides teens getting together at midnight places, malls (some of which host these late hours) have even added half-sized versions of such places and The Coen Brothers’ have made it a relatively recent hit comedy with The Big Lebowski (reviewed elsewhere on this site) that reflects the new era for better or worse.


Yes, there are new great bowlers and the game has a heart and soul (like the drive-in or cinema itself) that cannot be completely killed off, but whether it will have a new national, phenomenal peak has yet to be scene.  A League Of Ordinary Gentleman shows us as much of it as it can in 93 involving minutes and except for the un-sportsmanship addition of some sexual obscenity that would have ended any respectable career, has nothing to do with the greatness of bowling and is still questionable, the sport may be on the rise.  Let’s just hope the obscenity does not limit bowling to a “mere game” and not let that stop it.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image is pretty good, originating in digital High Definition, including all kinds of older film and NTSC analog professional videotape footage from the ABC –TV network heyday where it was a huge rating bonanza.  It is funny how the 1.33 X 1 old TV frame is cut to fit the 1.78 X 1 image, but it is also funny.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is not bad considering this is a documentary, with sometimes-ironic uses of music and decent location audio.  Extras include trailers for this and six other Magnolia Films, deleted scenes, “skills challenge highlights” clip, “Dexter Approach” bowling tips, PBA Event Clips and TV Spots.  This all adds up to another fun winner from Magnolia Home Video.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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