Robert Redford's THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE, a "Zen And The Art Of
Golfing" story, stars Will Smith as Bagger Vance, a mysterious and
philosophical caddy, and Matt Damon as Rannulph Junuh, a washed-up,
local golfing legend. With Bagger's cheerful help, Junuh discovers "the
authentic swing in each of us."
Set in Savannah in 1928, THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE is a disappointing
but gorgeous film that features lavish period sets and appears to have
been shot only in the glow of the rising or setting sun. Its sweeping
music tries to suggest epic proportions for a story that's badly lacking
gravitas. Incidents unfold unhurriedly. The story moves along without
much drive. And Redford interrupts an already slow game to admire the
local flora. Just what golf needs, someone to slow it down.
The fictional story concerns a match between two real-life golfing
greats, the effortlessly gifted Bobby Jones (Joel Gretsch) and the
flamboyant, ladies man Walter Hagen (Bruce McGill). Along for the ride
is a local golfing hero, Junuh, whose life was shattered by the war.
After meeting Bagger, he reluctantly agrees to return to his game after
10 years absence and become the third member of the match. Putting up
the $10,000 prize money is Adele Invergordon (Charlize Theron), Junuh's
ex-girlfriend and owner of a nearly bankrupt golf course.
The problem with the production starts with the casting. The
over-narrated film features Jack Lemmon's flat and uninspiring
voice-overs. Theron, who has been quite good in films such as THE
DEVIL'S ADVOCATE, is way over her head and completely unconvincing as a
manipulative Southern belle. The minor actors playing Savannah's
citizens ham it up with inflated Southern accents and exaggerated
gestures. J. Michael Moncrief, as Hardy Greaves, the story's
ever-present kid, quickly goes from cute to annoyingly saccharine. Matt
Damon proves to be an acceptable but not an exciting choice as Junuh,
giving us little reason to root for him. The only actor who brings much
to his part is Will Smith, whose performance provides the only credible
argument to see the movie.
Copyright © 2000 Steve Rhodes