Tony Hawks returns with a semi sequel to Round Ireland With a Fridge as he adapts another one of his real life bets-turned-books into a film. Is it as nail-biting as an Andy Murray match in the final at Wimbledon, or does it drag on and on like Isner/Mahut?
Hawks (aptly played by Tony Hawks), makes a bet with his friend that he could have turned professional as a tennis player, and in a roundabout way he decides to prove this by beating the Moldovan national soccer team at tennis. The film charts his journey to play each member of the starting eleven with the loser of the bet to face a forfeit.
Hawks has worked hard to ensure this project saw the light of day, serving as co-director, producer, writer and composer. Unfortunately it may have been a stretch too far for him. While he has improved as an actor since Ireland that does not make him a credible lead as he struggles to convey any emotion other than mild bemusement. The film’s opening credits suggest a wealth of British character actors that are to feature, almost all of them popping up in sketch shows over the last 20 years, and yet they are all marginalised in favour of the Moldovans. While this proved disappointing, the performances of the Moldovans prove a bright spark. Hawks adopted the Seinfeld approach to cast better actors around himself to improve the overall quality of the product and he made the right decision. The family that Hawks stays with during his time in Moldova appears more naturalistic than Hawks does in his own film.
Moldovans is quite enjoyable in places. Several exchanges generate a smile and a chuckle and the overall sentiment of the film is an endearing one, mostly due to the rather good-natured story. But there are no belly laughs, no witty dialogue, no real emotional depth to the characters and, while the plot is likeable enough and there is a strong sense of heart, there is no real drama to mine here.
Ultimately the film has a similar feeling to that of Children in Need, in that the overall quality of the content is rather weak, but its heart is there which results in a more charming picture than some other films. Its greatest triumph it what it strives to achieve, as all money its earnings are donated to a hospital in Moldova that helps autistic children. Hawks includes some footage of the hospital but he is smart enough to move past it to prevent such a subject from making the film overly sentimental.
P.S. When I was midway through the film, I began to wonder if it was merely a means for Hawks to advertise his book to a larger audience, because as earnest and likeable as the story is, it struggles in film format. However, it is apparent when the final credits run that this is not a long advertorial, but rather one that simply suggests we help others less fortunate (and one delivered at a rather apt time). Playing The Moldovans At Tennis can be watched online at the website here, and for FREE, but I would urge you to go see it at the cinema if you can – it’s for a good cause.