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The Legend Of Bagger Vance

review by Zach B.

Rated PG-13

Studio: Dreamworks

Running Time: 127 minutes

Starring Matt Damon, Will Smith, Charlize Theron

Written by Jeremy Leven
Based on the novel by Steven Pressfield

Directed by Robert Redford

Retail Price: $26.99

Features: Robert Redford: Insight Into "The Legend Of Bagger Vance" featurette, Production fearturette, Theatrical Teaser Trailer, Theatrical Trailer, Production Notes, Cast and Crew Bios

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1, English Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, Chapter Search (20 Chapters)

One of the most anticipated movies of the year 2000, "The Legend Of Bagger Vance" was pushed from August 2000 to November 2000 in hopes that the film would get some major nominations. The film did not get any major nods, and the film recieved lukewarm reviews despite Redford helming and an amazing cast. Many were disappointed by the film, as it opened to some lukewarm reviews. It also quickly bombed, only making back about half of its 60 million dollar budget. I originally wanted to see this movie in the theaters, but I never got the time. Well, my chance finally came. What did I think of Redford's latest opus? You're about to find out.

"The Legend Of Bagger Vance" is told through the eyes of Hardy Greaves, a young boy in Savannah, Georgia during the depression era. Greaves has heard a lot about Rannulph Junuh, an amazing golfer who went off to World War I with a lot of pride, but came back shattered. In the meanwhile, his ex-girlfriend, Adele Invergordon doesn't want to sell her father's estate after he commits suicide. The depression has hit hard, and she's struggling to pay off her debts. She feels she can bring people to her father's golf course and make money if she holds a tournament with some great southern golf greats, all with a ten thousand dollar prize. Two big legends, Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen come aboard to play, but Junuh is also recuirited. Junuh is a bit reluctant at first, but he gives in. However, Junuh, wants a magnificent player, has lost his "authentic swing". Then, out of the blue, the mysterious Bagger Vance appears and becomes Junuh's caddy. However, Bagger is more than a caddy. His words and advice aren't just for the game of golf, and extend far off the course. With all of Savannah having hope in Junuh, he goes off to play and hopefully recapture what he's lost... not just the swing, but his life.

Again, I wanted to see this movie originally, but after watching it, I was surprised how good it actually was. I'm a sap for movies with great acting and some interesting metaphors, but this movie is really, really well executed. I really don't understand why so many reviewers didn't like it so much. Many complained it was slow and boring, but I found it to be neither. The film's two hour plus running time went really fast when I watched it, and I was always intrigued what was going to happen next.

The strongest point to this movie is the fantastic acting. Simply put, this is one fine cast. Will Smith gives an incredible as the kind-hearted soulful but often mysterious Bagger Vance. Smith really embodies the role, and he's so good in it. He's kind of like a live-action Jimminy Cricket. Matt Damon is fantastic as Junuh, a man who's teared apart by his past and who's trying to come to grips with his life. Charlize Theron, who's always great, plays Adele Invergordon, a character who's more secure, but still has to realize things about Junuh. The supporting players are fantastic too, and everyone does justice for his or her role. But I saved the best for last. Jack Lemmon plays the older Hardy Greaves, who narrates the story. Jack Lemmon is an amazing talent, and he brings such dignity to his small role (he was uncredited too... seems like something he'd request and/or would be in the essence of the role). On another note, the whole cast gives off great southern accents.

On a more production side, Redford can still direct a movie, and he directs this one with much vision and life. I really thought he did a great and masterful job. The script itself, adapted by Jeremy Leven, has some great dialogue and lines. There are some excellent shots with some great visuals, and the editing is excellent. The costumes and sets are really well designed, as you really feel like you're back in the south during the late 1920s.

Still, what I felt missing from "Bagger Vance" was that there could have been more of Mister Vance himself and more of his wisdom, and more on Junnuh's painful past. But the way the movie is set up, and how things are portrayed, it's not that bad. You'll just want more of it, really. What I really liked though were the ending shots and how entertaining the movie was, it really flew by.

In all, "The Legend Of Bagger Vance" is really well done. It's a period piece without being a period piece, and has some great characters as well as great values to be learned. This movie deserved major nominations for its acting and designs for sure. While the film didn't fare so well at the box office (Dreamworks calls it a "30 million dollar hit"), I only hope it gains a much larger audience on video.

"The Legend Of Bagger Vance" is presented in a bold, 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. Colors and hues are well drawn out, and the lovely shots look pretty fantastic. Fleshtones are accurate, but unfortuantley, the transfer has a good amount of blemishes and grain, shimmering here and there plus some softness at points, as well as fuzziness (check out 06:34 to see what I mean). Still, it looks quite good.

Once again, Dreamworks releases dual soundtracks on to a release. "The Legend Of Bagger Vance" features Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1, as well as a 2.0 Dolby Surround track. The tracks are pretty much neck and neck, but I have to say the DTS wins this round by a hair. While the Dolby Digital appears to be louder, the DTS sounds have a lot more depth to them. I was surprised how good both tracks actually were, I wasn't expecting much for this movie.. Rachel Portman's beautiful score sounds excellent, the crickets chirping at night bring a lot of atmosphere and when the actual golf match starts, there are some pretty interesting surrounds, namely, with the golf clubs. You may not think there's much to the movie as far as sounds, but there's a lot, and it sounds fabulous. Both tracks also have clear, crisp dialogue with nothing interfering. Great mixes all around.

There's not much here. There isn't a commentary by Redford, but the closest thing is the four minute, twenty-four second featurette-of sorts Robert Redford: Insight Into "The Legend Of Bagger Vance". Stills from the production are shown and Redford narrates, and it makes me yearn for a commentary track from him. Redford is pretty insightful and comments on what storytelling means to him, golf and the film itself. If you liked the film, don't miss this.

A Production Featurette is also included, but it's strictly fluff. You can tell it's strictly fluff by the featurette's narrator, who makes it sound really promotional. It has clips from the film, a behind the scenes shot or two and interviews with Redford, Theron, Smith, Damon and the kid who played the young Hardy Reaves. This was a disappointing featurette, considering how much longer other Dreamworks featurettes have been and how they've gone more in-depth (I guess there was no HBO First Look for this movie).

Rounding off the disc is the excllent Theatrical Teaser Trailer and engrossing Theatrical Trailer (both in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 5.1 Dolby Digital), plus Production Notes (which are also in the keepcase insert) and Cast and Crew Bios. On the menus note, they are really well animated and designed with the excellent Portman score and some very good clips from the movie.

Don't let the bad reviews turn you off, "The Legend Of Bagger Vance" is an excellent and incredibly underrated movie about overcoming the past and moving on. Dreamworks once again gives a great presentation for a standard release. Though the transfer could have been better and some more features dealing with the production and background of things in the film would have been nice, if you had any interest in the movie at all, be sure to check it out.

(4.5/5 - NOT included in final score)




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