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