Vance (Smith) is the mysterious caddy
who appears in the nick of time to help
former golf great Rannulph Junuh (Damon)
recall himself to life and rediscover
"his swing." Junuh was Savannah's hometown
hero as the youngest golf champion ever,
but lost himself when he went off in 1917,
to fight in the Great War. Returning to
Savannah at the height of the Great Depression,
he encounters his former sweetheart, Adele
Invergordon (Theron), who's promoting
an exhibition match between the reigning
golfers of the day in order to save her
dead father's golf course/resort from
being sold on the courthouse steps.
Redford returns to the same bottle he
pulled lightning from for A RIVER RUNS
THROUGH IT, with another story of men
engaging in graceful, physical endeavors
as a metaphor for how to live. This tale,
however, is a mere slip of a thing compared
to RIVER. So why compare the two? Because
Redford obviously did as he directed this.
Portman's lush score swells as the camera
repeatedly focuses on strong hands gripping
golf clubs and swinging, much like the
many scenes of fly-fishing in RIVER. And
once again, we watch a Robert Redford
stand-in. For this is also, to a degree,
a picture about beautiful young men, by
the man who was America's most beautiful
young man back in the day. Damon's hair
has been dyed for this role, and we're
treated to lots of shots of the sun glinting
off his red-gold head and his flushed,
sunburned cheekbones. Why gosh, he kind
of resembles Redford, just as Brad Pitt
did in RIVER. Fancy that, y'all.
appears to be a fable, so although it's
set during a time when Southern trees
often bore a strange fruit, race issues
are non-existent. Little white boys call
black men "sir." That's how non-existent
race issues are.
highs and lows, Vance gets Junuh on his
feet again. Sometimes Vance's New Agey
admonitions call to mind nothing so much
as Obi-Wan Kenobi, as he exhorts Junuh
to feel the shots. Other times he lets
his charge learn by offering him just
so much support … then stepping away.
Smith does a creditable job of getting
Junuh to use the Force, but this role
is just all wrong for him. For one thing,
he's too modern. Smith doesn't work well
in other periods. But more fundamentally,
Smith's biggest assets are his charm,
not used here as well as it could be,
and his turned-up-to-11 sex appeal, neutered
by the time and place in which this story
is set. What. A. Crime.
annoyances: The actors' on-again, off-again
Southern accents (only Smith managed to
hold on to his accent throughout the picture);
the 127-minute length of the movie, clearly
unnecessary; the fact that some knowledge
of golf is necessary (I have none. Nada.
Zip. I didn't get many of the action jokes.);
and the ubiquitous Charlize Theron.
stuff to know: Bruce McGill, who plays
golfer Walter Hagen, also played D-Day
in ANIMAL HOUSE. Jack Lemmon, who opens
the film and does voice-over, is a real-life
golf fanatic who plays in Pro-Am tournaments.
LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE could be more interesting
to those who enjoy the sport of golf.
I thought it was like watching grass grow.