The Legend Of Bagger Vance

Director Robert Redford shows his age — and we mean this in the best possible way — with this old-fashioned movie in which the virtues of honor and sportsmanship are made vibrant and real. Redford and screenwriter Jeremy Leven take these themes from Steven Pressfield's novel and make them seem natural in the course of everyday life. The elegance...read more

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Reviewed by Frank Lovece
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Director Robert Redford shows his age — and we mean this in the best possible way — with this old-fashioned movie in which the virtues of honor and sportsmanship are made vibrant and real. Redford and screenwriter Jeremy Leven take these themes

from Steven Pressfield's novel and make them seem natural in the course of everyday life. The elegance and grace with which they do it help balance out the film's considerable shortcomings. In Depression-era Savannah, local golf hero and WWI veteran Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon) is suffering from

post-traumatic stress syndrome and a dose of survivor guilt. Junuh escaped a battlefield massacre by sheer chance and as a result, he's lost his swing. How he gets his groove back is the spine of what amounts to a retelling of The Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu scripture in which the Lord Krishna

assumes human form to serve and instruct a warrior. Here, the human form is that of genial golf caddy Bagger Vance (Will Smith, whose charm and timing help dissipate the Uncle Remus stereotype inherent in such a character). The battlefield becomes a golf tournament, pitting Junuh against two

real-life legends: Epitome-of-decency Bobby Jones (Joel Gretsch, a veritable Arrow Shirt ad come to life) and hedonist-with-a-heart Walter Hagen (the ever-great Bruce McGill). Michael Ballhaus' golden cinematography imbues the proceedings with a heavenly sheen that's entirely appropriate, since

this overly familiar story of a young man's fall from and return to grace needs mythic, larger-than-life resonance to remain compelling. Unfortunately, the film is formulaic and painfully predictable, with a laughable, "Trust the Force, Luke" feel. It's also bedeviled by some of the corniest

cinematic moments imaginable, particularly in the narration (by an uncredited Jack Lemmon). Worse yet, it's set during an amazingly clean and well-fed Depression in which racism doesn't seem to exist. Despite this, some brilliant human moments do emerge, and there's nothing wrong with a reminder

to live life in harmony, and not to beat yourself up.

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: Director Robert Redford shows his age — and we mean this in the best possible way — with this old-fashioned movie in which the virtues of honor and sportsmanship are made vibrant and real. Redford and screenwriter Jeremy Leven take these themes… (more)

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