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The Legend of Bagger Vance

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Legend of Bagger Vance

Starring: Will Smith, Matt Damon
Director: Robert Redford
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 127 Minutes
Release Date: November 2000
Genres: Drama, Sports

*Also starring: Charlize Theron, Joel Gretsch, Bruce McGill, Jack Lemmon, Thomas Jay Ryan, J. Michael Moncrief, Dermot Crowley, Peter Gerety

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Review by Susan Granger
3 stars out of 4

From the opening shot of (uncredited) Jack Lemmon reaching for a club, muttering, "Why do I play a game that's destined to kill me?," you know you're in for a magical, mystical golf metaphor. Through flashbacks and Lemmon's narration, the story of his childhood idol, Rannulph Junuh, unfolds. Junuh was the greatest golfer in Savannah, Georgia, until he went off to W.W. I and returned home, disillusioned and depressed. The golden boy had lost his "authentic swing." After that, it took a high-stakes exhibition tournament with Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen, the two greatest pros of the Depression-era, and a dose of reality from a philosophical caddie, Bagger Vance, to help him find redemption and get back in the groove, not to mention back in the arms of his spunky fiance. As the guardian angel Bagger, Will Smith steals the picture, ruminating wisely on overcoming adversity. Originally, director Robert Redford was to play Junuh, opposite Morgan Freeman. Too bad he didn't.! Damon's a charming if bland, young Redford clone, and an original is always preferable to an imitator. On the other hand, Charlize Theron is beguiling, as is young J. Michael Moncrief. The problem: Jeremy Leven's screenplay, based on Steven Pressfield's novel, has too little backstory to evoke an emotional investment in the characters. But the production values are admirable: credit cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, designer Stuart Craig, costumer Judianna Makovsky, visual effects supervisor Richard Chuang and editor Hank Corwin. Too bad composer Rachel Portman's music goes over-the-top, as when a religious choir heralds a hole-in-one in the 3rd round. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Legend of Bagger Vance" is a spiritual 7. Like life, golf "is a game that can't be won, only played."

Copyright 2000 Susan Granger

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