Picks and Pans Review: The Legend of Bagger Vance
Having already starred in or directed movies about skiing (1969's Downhill Racer), baseball (1984's The Natural) and fly-fishing (1992's A River Runs Through It), Robert Redford now turns to golf—the world's most boring game, at least to watch onscreen. Like those earlier films, The Legend of Bagger Vance is about more than sports: It heavy-handedly equates mastering hitting a ball into a hole with solving the mysteries of life. Though competently acted, this too-tidy drama is one big yawn.
Damon plays a former golden boy named Rannulph Junah, who was once the best golfer in the South. He loses his emotional bearings, and his golf game, on the battlefields of World War I. Flash forward to Savannah in the early '30s, when his long-estranged fiancée (Theron) coaxes an alcoholic, reclusive Junah into appearing in an exhibition she's sponsoring featuring real-life legends Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones. Showing up out of nowhere to coach Junah is Bagger Vance (Smith), a mysterious caddy who talks like Deepak Chopra, nattering on about how each of us has an "authentic swing" (schwing, maybe, but swing?) and how everything will be okay if we can just find it.
Redford does all that he can to make Vance's numerous golf scenes seem exciting—we're treated to club-cam and fairway-cam—but even Tiger Woods couldn't save this one. (PG-13)
Bottom Line: Swing and a miss