Battle of the Sexes

Rated 2.0

Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine; Ruby Sparks) direct this cardboard biopic about the nationally televised tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, a circus-like exhibition viewed by tens of millions and hyped as the “Battle of the Sexes.” King is played by a sorely miscast Emma Stone, and her lack of athletic credibility forces the film to show all her tennis action in long shots and shaky close-ups. Still, Stone’s wide-eyed soulfulness is the closest thing to a human element here, and the self-discovering love story between the married King and a free-spirited female hairdresser (Andrea Riseborough) offers a brief respite from the sitcom-phony dialogue and wafer-thin characters that otherwise dominate Simon Beaufoy’s clanging screenplay. Meanwhile, Steve Carell plays the loudmouth hustler Riggs as exactly the one-note, surface-level caricature you would expect, and the film veers chaotically from googly-eyed comedy to sincere drama as a result. D.B.