'Tin Cup' scores better than par for the course Appealing: Costner, Russo, some depth and romance make for a sports film with something for everyone.


The ghost of "Bull Durham" has come back to haunt movie theaters. Same director. Same star. Same ballpark. Or the same golf course, as you might say for "Tin Cup."

Like "Bull Durham" before it, "Tin Cup" takes a talented underachiever and makes him a hero. Kevin Costner is in the title role (there's an elaborate and rather pointless explanation of his nickname), and the Charm is back.

This time around, he's not talking in a bad English accent or growing gills. He's easygoing, funny, cute and nice. Date-Movie Alert! The guys will like the golf (and Rene Russo). The gals will mostly like him.

That's not to say that "Tin Cup" has all the joy, humor and brains of "Bull Durham," but it sure is likable.

Costner plays Roy McAvoy, a golf pro at a lonesome driving range in the Texas desert whose short fuse has kept him from the kind of pro-golf success achieved by longtime rival David Simms (Don Johnson). Plus, he's flat broke and has to give up his driving range to the woman he owes $12,000 to -- stripper and former girlfriend Doreen (Linda Hart).

His luck seems about to change for the better, however, when the high-strung Dr. Molly Griswold (Russo) comes along for a golfing lesson -- until he finds out that her boyfriend is none other than David Simms.

What can Roy do to rise out of the mess he's in? Try to qualify for the U.S. Open, with his faithful friend Romeo (Cheech Marin, quietly amusing) as his caddie. He's willing to get there playing with garden tools, if he has to.

It's your basic sports-misfit-chasing-his-dreams story, but from beginning to end, there are welcome twists in the formula.

The characters are shockingly three-dimensional for a sports flick. Don Johnson's Simms is a jerk, but he's an affable jerk who seems immune to insult. Rene Russo's Doc is a spark plug, intelligent and sexy but prone to zany outbursts.

And there's a wonderful man-of-the-people sense about Costner, as his character struggles to work through some mental blocks while living in a home on wheels and hanging out at the Waffle House with his buddies (definitely not the country club set).

Director and co-writer Ron Shelton gives "Tin Cup" the leisurely pace of a golf game, with a laid-back, bluesy soundtrack. If you slip into a coma when golf is on TV, then you might not find your heart racing when Roy tees up.

But if you're among the burgeoning number of golf groupies who live for an emerald green and get nervous when lightning's in the forecast, the funny and romantic "Tin Cup" evokes the pleasures of being there.

'Tin Cup'

Starring: Kevin Costner, Rene Russo

Directed by: Ron Shelton

Released by: Warner Bros.

Rated: R (language, nudity, sexual situations)

Sun score: ***

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