In 1984, Robert Redford starred in Barry Levinson's film of Bernard Malamud's Arthurian baseball saga The Natural. It was, against all odds, very decent, but it must've turned his head: as director, he'd later wax mystical over fly fishing (A River Runs Through It), equestrian skills (The Horse Whisperer), and now golf, with God as a caddy. The one imaginable motive (besides lucre) for perpetrating such mush must be that Hollywood types feel the need to justify/dignify time spent schmoozing on artificial oases of sprinklered sward that despoil and damage the environment. The script, allegedly from 'a novel' by Steven Pressfield, concerns Rannulph Junuh (Damon) who, since returning from the Great War, has lost his 'authentic swing', not to mention his drive and his desire for Savannah heiress Adele (Theron). Seeing daddy's luxury links menaced by the Depression, she plans to save them by staging a match between Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen and the local hero. But can Junuh overcome his fear, self-pity, pride and poor concentration? As if by destiny, out of the darkness comes canny caddy Bagger Vance (Smith) to teach him how to read greens, to hear tides and the turning of the eart' - to know himself and clinch the contest. Uncle Tom cobblers and all, this risible bloated excuse for a parable of spiritual redemption insults racial egalitarians, the religious, any golfer remotely realistic about the game, and those with brains not addled by what passes for the good life in LaLaland. Fore!
Cast and crew
J Michael Moncrief