Mad Hot Ballroom and A League of Ordinary Gentlemen

Reviews of the latest films.
May 27 2005 5:00 PM

Bowled Over

Mad Hot Ballroom and A League of Ordinary Gentlemen—two fun documentaries about winners and weepers.

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The League of Ordinary Gentleman also features a bowler on the rise, the tall, good-looking (but maybe too sensitive) Chris Barnes, who comes with an anxious wife and twin babies. And it has a bowler on the way down, the sad-sack casualty Wayne Webb, a compact ex-champ who partied hard when he was on top and now is broke, lonely, and bitter toward a sport that no longer has a place for hangers-on.

A League of Ordinary Gentlemen builds to the so-called 2003 World Championship outside Detroit—the key, says Steve Miller, to whipping up excitement about bowling's second coming. But even with the rock music and wrestling poses, the crowd skews old. You're left with a haunting vision—of a go-for-it, romantic, fame-and-fortune template featuring quasi-athletes who can't seem to climb out of the lower middle class.

David Edelstein is Slate's film critic. You can read his reviews in "Reel Time" and in "Movies." He can be contacted at slatemovies@slate.com.