Savannah, USA, and Rannulph Junnah (Matt Damon) is without doubt the finest golfer in the state. With Adele Invergordon (Charlize Theron), the beautiful daughter of a wealthy landowner at his side, it seems nothing can go wrong for young Rannulph. However, the couple's idyll is shattered when the Great War begins, and Rannulph is drafted to fight in Europe. Many years later, Adele seeks out her old flame to compete in a big golf tournament, but Rannulph is a broken man, a slave to the bottle, and can only be encouraged to play again when Bagger Vance (Will Smith), a charismatic caddy, shows up. Bagger Vance's mystical presence then proceeds to change the lives of Rannulph and Adele in ways they could not expect.
Based on the bestselling novel
by Steven Pressfield, The Legend of Bagger Vance
is a beguiling addition to the tiny genre of feel-good mystical sports movies. In Georgia at the height of the Depression, Adele Invergordon (Charlise Theron) organises a golf tournament to publicise her inherited luxury hotel/golf course. Taking part are two genuine golf stars of the period, together with one-time Southern sporting hero, Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon). Shattered by the Great War, Junuh has retreated into a bottle and it is up to a local boy, Hardy Greaves (an excellent J Michael Moncrief making his screen debut, and as an old man Jack Lemmon in his final film) and caddy Bagger Vance (Will Smith) to help him find his lost swing.
Though it is never made explicit, Vance is an angel and the film is really about redemption, the golf scenes being a not exactly subtle metaphor for life itself. Some may find it corny and unoriginal; the movie has much in common with director Robert Redford's own The Natural (1984) as well as Heaven Can Wait (1978) and Field of Dreams (1989). Yet after a clunky opening Bagger Vance finds its swing and proves a delightful light romantic drama, with gorgeous cinematography, fine performances and a wonderful score by Rachel Portman.
On the DVD: The Legend of Bagger Vance on disc has an anamorphic transfer of the original 1.85-1 image, and though a little dark is very sharp and filled with detail and vibrant colours. The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound does everything expected, being atmospheric and showcasing the score to good effect. Extras are a four-minute interview with Robert Redford and a three-minute "featurette" which is really an extended trailer to complement the teaser and conventional trailer also included. There are several pages of electronic press kit production notes, and biographies and filmographies of 18 of the film's stars and production personnel. As Redford believes commentaries and in-depth behind the scenes features ruin the magic of the movies this is as extensive a collection as is likely to appear. Finally there is a truly appalling trailer for the DVD of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. --Gary S Dalkin
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