The Tiger Woods Story” is pretty much everything we’d expect from a biography made about an athlete who is barely old enough to drink. It uses the golf club as a paint-by-numbers brush to depict the youthful golf legend of the title as a sensitive, single-minded talent whose most valuable driver isn’t in his golf bag but is half-bagged, period: his chain-smoking, beer-swigging, overbearing daddy Earl. Oddly enough, it’s not an especially unflattering portrayal of either man, since the film lacks the illumination to be truly negative.
This unauthorized biopic, made under the “Showtime Original Pictures for Kids” banner, seems to be imparting the message to kids that they too can be a golf prodigy collecting championships and raking in $100 million in endorsements by the age of 21 if they have a military-trained disciplinarian for a father, a demure-but-strong Asian-American mother and the determination to overcome the ignorance and prejudice that comes with being caught between two racial/ethnic groups.
C’mon, kids, let’s get out there and hit those links!
Based on the book “Tiger” by journalist John Strege and directed by LeVar Burton in his TV-movie helming debut (Woods was all of a year old when Burton was starring in “Roots”), the film finds Burton actually coaxing some surprisingly strong performances from Keith David as the hulking Earl, Khalil Kain as the adolescent and adult Tiger and T.I. Hall as the very young (ages 3-5) golfing phenom who is shown hustling a club pro at the age of 3.
But try as Burton might to keep “The Tiger Woods Story” centered and vital, it’s undone by a Takashi A. Bufford script that’s all over the map, flashing back to Woods’ spectacularly dominant Masters performance and then whipping back and forth through the various events in his childhood and teenhood like a tot in desperate need of Ritalin.
The project is also, frankly, mislabeled. It is perhaps more “The Earl Woods Story” than that of “Tiger” as the teleplay centers its focus on Earl’s frequent lectures and his platitude-spouting, which come from a need that we are led to believe somehow sprouted from his military training.
Tiger, meanwhile, is portrayed as a kid whose superstar talent was called up almost effortlessly and who took the racism in his midst pretty much in stride. That, we’re told, was due to the spiritual influence of his Thai-born mother Tida (Freda Foh Shen), who is reduced here to a series of disapproving looks and phrases (“Eat your broccoli!”) and Eastern Philosophy blather.
As for those raging Tiger hormones, well, let’s just say that he apparently hasn’t been scoring quite as many eagles with the ladies.
Frustrated Girlfriend: “I’m second to golf, second to economics, second to calculus — and now I’m second to Arnold Palmer!” Yeah, well, Arnie’s cuter.
“The Tiger Woods Story” is a tepid, if noble, attempt to wring drama from the tale of one of the great pure athletes of our time. Unfortunately, Tiger is a little young for the bio treatment, and it shows. Thirty years from now, this guy’s story will probably make one helluva flick. This ain’t it.
Tech credits are solid.