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Blackball (2003)

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A rebellious young British bowls player teams with another older and more traditional player to take on the Australian bowls team.


Mel Smith


Tim Firth (screenplay)





Cast overview, first billed only:
Paul Kaye ... Cliff
James Cromwell ... Ray
Alice Evans ... Kerry
Bernard Cribbins ... Mutley
Johnny Vegas ... Trevor
Vince Vaughn ... Rick
Imelda Staunton ... Bridget
James Fleet ... Alan the Pipe
David Ryall ... Giles Wilton
Ian McNeice ... Hugh The Sideburns
Kenneth Cranham ... Chairman Collins
Terry Alderton Terry Alderton ... Bouncer Jonno
Emma Amos ... Local News Reporter
Paul Bentall Paul Bentall ... Gate Guard (as Paul Bental)
Neil Conrich Neil Conrich ... Reporter Dave


Try as he might, the roguishly handsome Cliff Starkey, just can't keep out of trouble. In his sleepy home town on the English coast, nothing much inspires him...apart from bowls. Cliff has always preferred to play by his own rules much to the disapproval of the regimented, elderly bowls fraternity. Before long, the bay boy of bowls is turning the sedate and very English pastime upside down with hysterical results. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


At last, a sportsman the British can be proud of... See more »


Comedy | Drama | Sport

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »






Release Date:

5 September 2003 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

National Lampoon's Blackball See more »

Filming Locations:

London, England, UK See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

£376,233 (United Kingdom), 7 September 2003, Limited Release
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The tagline "At last a sportsman the British can be proud of..." is actually written "aT last a spOrtSman the britiSh can bE pRoud of..." the capitalized letters spelling the word 'Tosser' which is a word frequently used in the film. See more »


There is paper confetti all over the floor of the indoor bowling green for the England Vs Australia match, in the next shot there is none. See more »


Cliff: Is it on the condom?
See more »


References Rocky (1976) See more »


Lazy Sunday
Written by Steve Marriott (as Marriott) and Ronnie Lane (as Lane)
Performed by The Libertines
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Very broad and basic but still energetic enough and amusing
13 March 2004 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

Cliff Starkey comes from the rough end of Torquay but is a master bowls player considering that he refuses to set foot onto the snobbish green of Ray Speight's bowling club. When he hears that Australia's hottest young bowlers are coming to England to play England's county champions, Cliff competes and wins - but an insult to Ray gets him a ban. Things look bleak until an American sports agent steps in and makes Cliff the all new bad boy of bowls - the hottest new sport in the UK.

Despite the average reviews for this film and the fact that British comedies are often a very low standard of humour, I decided to watch this film. I was once a bowler myself as a teenager but that played no part in my relative enjoyment of this film. The plot is daft of course but that shouldn't matter as the laughs should make it easy watching; this is sort of the case, but nowhere near enough. The comedy is very broad, which isn't a problem for me; what is a problem is that I wasn't laughing anywhere near enough to support this type of humour. I did laugh but it was inconsistent.

Despite this, the film still has enough rough energy to cover it even when it isn't drawing actual laughs. It is amusing in a very basic way and I found it just about did enough to justify watching. The script could really have done more to up the humour - the dialogue is too basic whereas I really think it could have done with being more off the wall and hilarious. As it was I think it relied too heavily on the daftness of the plot and it's energy to get laughs.

In terms of energy though, Kaye does well. He is quite good but he has a problem brought about by the fact that his character is an unsympathetic idiot from start to finish. This was an issue as you really need an audience on the side of the main character if we are eventually meant to root for him. Vegas is a very funny man - but here he really needed those `off the wall' lines I referred to before; he is still funny here but only by his appearance. God knows why Vaughan did this film but his was the best character simply because it was off the wall and fun; not his best performance but enjoyably silly. Cromwell adds a bit of weight but does seem too good for this. The support cast is full of British comedians - Cribbins, Staunton, Reeves, McNeice are all good and Tony Slattery is given a silly wig and just let loose. Small roles also for Mark Little and Jon Snow.

Overall this is amusing but never really hilarious. It has a few laughs but generally it gets by on raucous energy alone. It is broad and silly but it is worth seeing if you are in a silly mood and not too demanding.

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