The Legend of Bagger Vance

January 28, 2012 10 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Robert Redford has long been known for his acting, but it’s as a Director that he has gained praise and even an Academy Award for his efforts. Though it was some twenty years ago, he won an Oscar for Ordinary People. Since then, Redford has continued his career on both sides of the camera with movies like Sneakers, The Natural and Out of Africa as an actor; and The Horse Whisperer, A River Runs Through It and his latest offering…The Legend of Bagger Vance. Redford can do so many things with the camera, but he is always noted for his use of scenery and landscape. His movies are aesthetically pleasing to the eyes. So how do you get a top notch action star like Will Smith, an Academy Award winning writer and accomplished actor like Matt Damon and an up and coming beautiful star like Charlize Theron to all be in your movie? Well, for starters, it helps if your name is Robert Redford. Based on the best-selling book of the same name, The Legend of Bagger Vance has the label of being a “golf movie”. While I am personally a golf nut, many aren’t. But there’s a guy by the name of Tiger who is starting to change everyone’s opinion of what golf is (and isn’t). In much of the same spirit of “The Natrual” coincidentally enough starring Redford, The Legend of Bagger Vance is a movie about someone finding what he has lost. Though emotional, it flows and has just enough of the sport in it to keep most people’s attention. Let’s tee it up and see what it’s all about…

Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon) used to be the best there ever was. He was on track to a great golfing career, but got sucked into the perils of war for his country. Ever since his return, he hasn’t been the same. His swing is gone and he now seems more content at the bottom of a bottle than on the manicured greens of a golf course. The country is in the midst of the Great Depression, people can’t seem to find work and what people don’t want to think about is a new golf course. In Savannah, Georgia a new golf course is what the have. Adele Invergordon (Charlize Theron) has just lost her father. He had built a brand new resort and golf course, the grandest that Savannah has ever seen. Upon the passing of her father, she is “supposed” to sell it as a woman has no place running a resort. She does precisely the opposite. what Adele wants is for the course to become popular. “There’s people still out there with money and I want them to play at this course” is how she puts it. But how do you do that? Essentially the whole movie is a flashback of Hardy Greaves (J. Michael Moncrief) who has a heart attack in present day (played by an actor that is best left unsaid, as I don’t want to spoil any surprises). In order to have this tournament, some big names must be present. None are bigger than Bobby Jones (Joel Gretsch) and Walter Hagen (Bruce McGill). After she manages to recruit them, a search for a local Savannah golfer must be found to represent the hometown. Names are thrown around, but it’s Hardy’s suggestion (as a little kid) to conjure up Rannulph Junah and get him to play. Known more as a drunk than a golfer these days, Junah finally agrees to play. But, as mentioned before, his swing is now gone and it’s only started to be found again with the help of a mysterious caddy by the name of Bagger Vance (Will Smith).

Vance, who talks more in rhymes and phrases has very heart felt advice for Junah. He takes him back to the basics and adopts Hardy as his assistant. While the story focuses mainly on Junah and his relationship with Adele, the progression from alcoholic to golfer is a mighty one. The bottom line is that if you’re a golf fan, you’ll enjoy this movie. PGA tour professional Tim Moss was brought on to help train the actors to golf and they have it down…to a tee (so to speak). Most golfers can’t act, but these actors make convincing golfers. While it differs from the book in the sense that there is a love interest (in Adele), there is just the right mixture of golf and love to make it worth watching. Movies like Tin Cup showed that this formula can work, as does this. Still, this movie qualifies as a “sports movie” and they have an element of predictability to them, but it’s getting to the finale that’s fun. Redford has captured some beautiful images here and if you’re in the mood for just a plain ‘ol good movie, then this may be your cup of tea.

Video: How does it look?

Shot in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, The Legend of Bagger Vance is lacking in the video department. Yes, it’s a new movie, but I found that some of the scenes seemed to be “burnt out” and have a very overexposed look to them. Most of the scenes don’t suffer from this, but a few do seem to have it. As picturesque as this movie is, the fairways and coastline of Savannah do look great on DVD; but it’s the details that count. Fleshtones, for the most part, seem to be right on target. At the ending golf scene, during a “simulated sunset” it appears as if the characters faces were painted with a spray brush. Really. There is no artifacting to speak of and edge enhancement is minimal, I personally feel that the addition of a DTS track might have detracted from the image quality here…but that’s just my opinion.

Audio: How does it sound?

As with most other Dreamworks titles, a DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 track is included. For the most part, they are almost identical as this movie relies on the visuals to take you from beginning to end and not your speakers. I have to give the edge to the DTS track once again as it isn’t as compressed. One scene in particular is when Rannulph Junah tees off. We don’t see him hit the ball as the camera is on two other characters, but you hear that familiar sound in the rear speakers only. It’s a nice effect that really shows how much a sound can do for the movie. Dialogue is clean and free of any distortion, but for the most part this is a surround mix (which is also included). Not a bad mix.

Supplements: What are the extras?

As with most Dreamworks releases, this disc comes equipped with some Production Notes, extensive Cast and Crew Bios and a Trailer (also a Teaser Trailer). Included on this release are a few brief featurettes. The first is a production featurette with some interviews with Will Smith, Matt Damon and Charlize Theorn and is a standard “Behind the Scenes” featurette. The next is Robert Redford’s insight into “The Legend of Bagger Vance”. Essentially this is a series of still pictures with Redford’s words telling why he did the movie and what it meant to him. A nice touch, but I would have liked to have seen more in the extras department. Another solid effort from Dreamworks, here.

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