The Man with the Perfect Swing

Anthony (Babe)

Anthony (Babe)

Lombardo … James Black

Susan Lombardo … Suzanne Savoy

Chuck Carter … Marco Perella

Lou Gallo … James Belcher

Bonelli …Richard Bradshaw

Albert Scardino … William Hardy

Father Mac … Harold Suggs

Michael Hovis'”The Man With the Perfect Swing” is a slight but engaging comedy-drama that needs special handling to reach its likely target audience. Theatrical potential is doubtful. But with savvy marketing, it could be a popular video item both in mainstream outlets and golf-course pro shops.

Noted Dallas theater veteran James Black stars to perfection as Anthony (Babe) Lombardo, a semi-famous ex-baseball player who has earned and lost fortunes in various ill-fated business enterprises. Now a middle-aged has-been, he continues to wheel and deal, designing and selling specialty products for golfers.

Despite his gung-ho enthusiasm, Babe is deep in debt and in trouble with the IRS. His best friend (James Belcher), a successful auto dealer, is tired of lending him money. And even Babe’s loyal wife (Suzanne Savoy), who’s balancing college courses with part-time employment, is running out of patience with her husband’s get-rich-quick schemes.

Fortuitously, Babe develops a radically new golf swing that combines traditional putting with baseball expertise. (That the audience never actually gets to see the swing is pic’s best running gag.) But instead of using his new swing to possibly win golf tournaments, Babe tries to exploit it in other ways.

With the help of an old friend (Marco Perella), he plots to produce a how-to video featuring a budding PGA star. Unfortunately, the star isn’t nearly as bright as he appears. Even more unfortunately, Babe manages to screw up every other attempt to make money from his swing.

Writer and director Hovis plays the situation for chuckles rather than belly laughs. “Perfect Swing” never develops a sense of narrative momentum, and bogs down whenever it tries too hard to emphasize the plot’s dramatic elements. Babe’s long-simmering resentment over the failure of his late father’s grocery business adds some depth to the character. But it takes up more screen time than it’s worth.

Still, pic is amusing enough, and Black generates enough goodwill to keep the audience rooting for Babe. Savoy is appealing in the thankless role of the loyal wife, while Perella and Belcher also offer fine support.

Filmed in and around Dallas, pic makes the most of a limited budget. Production values, including Jim Barham’s color lensing, are entirely adequate. Blowup from super-16mm is sharp.

The Man with the Perfect Swing

Production: A Hovis Films production. Produced by Angela Sembera Hovis, Michael Hovis. Directed, written, edited by Michael Hovis.

Crew: Camera (color), Jim Barham; art direction, Jeanette Scott; music, Paul English; sound, Linden Hudson. Reviewed at South by Southwest Film and Media Conference, Austin, Texas, March 11, 1995. Running time: 94 MIN.

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