Picks and Pans Review: Players

UPDATED 07/16/1979 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 07/16/1979 at 01:00 AM EDT

This is a tennis movie, but the real competition, waged in lingering closeups, focuses on who is more adorable—coy Ali MacGraw or sincere Dean-Paul Martin. (The plot details how her inspiration puts him into the Wimbledon finals, though she proves elusive as a lover.) They are both gorgeous, of course, though film newcomer Martin, Dean's son, bares his muscular though bald chest every other scene while MacGraw, inhibited by the PG rating, can only undo a button or three. Neither, alas, is an overpowering actor, rendering laughable such already insipid lines as "Everything about you is my business," "I can't believe this conversation" and "It's over." (Reports that parts of the film were improvised are believable.) Martin, a tennis pro, tends to overact on the court, flopping and diving so much he looks like a tennis player imitating a porpoise, or vice versa. Only the guy who plays boorish Ilie Nastase is totally convincing, and that's because it is Ilie Nastase. Consider the nominations closed for 1979's Most Unutterably Dopey.

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