Legend of Bagger Vance, The

Reviewed By Collin Souter
Posted 12/04/00 02:25:26

"Legend Of A Guy Who Cleans Golf Shoes"
1 stars (Total Crap)

Just what does make a legend? Don’t you have to do something that no one else has done before, that no one thought could ever be done? Don’t you have to somehow make your mark on the world?Or, can it be just showing up at some drunk guy’s house to give him some golf pointers?

According to Robert Redford’s unforgivably dull Legend Of Bagger Vance, that would be all you need to do. Oh, and become a spiritual golf caddie. You heard me correct. A spiritual golf caddie. I can’t think of another way to describe him, because, basically, we only see Bagger Vance (Will Smith) doing just that. He doesn’t play golf. He doesn’t sing songs or teach Matt Damon to “sand-da-floor.” He doesn’t even stay for the entire game. He does, however, have his own personal music cue every time he says his name, thanks to the awkward score from Rachel Portman.

The story concerns a small town in the middle of the baby boom—sorry, depression. Norman Rockwell’s Depression. Anyway, some guy opened a big golf course just before the stock market crash and decided to blow his brains out since nobody showed up. His daughter (Charlize Theron, doing her best Jessica Lange) inherits it and, rather than sell it, keeps it in hopes that people will come. Oh, yes, people will come.

She tries to recruit a drunk ex-golf pro who just came back from the war (Matt Damon). He drinks because he can’t let go of his past war failures. He seems reluctant to join in the tournament, of course, because, well, he might succeed (Good Will Golfing syndrome). He changes his mind after an annoying little tyke comes to his door and begs him to come play. Soon thereafter, Damon stands in his backyard and practices his swing, at which time, the legendary Bagger Vance (music cue!!!) shows up.

What does this guy have to do with anything? Absolutely nothing. There, I just saved you eight bucks. Nothing, people! Nothing! Nothing! Nothing! He just stands there. Drug addicts do more than this guy. Sure, he can sure clean a mean golf cleat, but so can I. In fact, I mopped my floor the other day and it looks sparkling clean. Used Sun-Pro. Yeah, I did, now go write a folk song about me, and I mean now! I sat there for two whole hours waiting for them to explain Bagger Vance’s big deal. He shows up, he coaches Matt Damon, he leaves before the game has ended.

And, yes, he did exist. Everybody saw him. They all talked to him. No spiritual element exists, even though Redford tries like an evangelist to make us believe in a correlation between golf and the spirit. Sorry, but Redford should really take some lessons from Dorf. Golf has always been a silly sport, and it may be time for all of us to accept that.

The movie starts out with the aforementioned little tyke as a full grown man (Jack Lemmon) who falls over while playing golf, has a slight heart attack, and proceeds to narrate the whole movie. Of course, the little tyke does not exist in every single scene, so how can he narrate? I don’t know.

In his narration, he explains that the tournament would last two days, all day Saturday and all day Sunday. And, boy, Redford shows every minute of it. Nothing like going to the movies to watch a golf game. In case you don’t play golf or can’t follow the razor-this plot line, Jack Lemmon needlessly talks you through all of it with the excitement of a drooling fly-fisherman on a valium trip.

Do you like watching golf on TV? I can’t help but think of George Carlin’s bit about golf on TV (“It’s like watching flies f***”), which may be why I couldn’t help but burst out laughing when the little tyke looked into the camera with the glint of childlike sincerity in his eye and said, “Golf is the greatest game there ever was.” I like motorcycle ice hockey myself.

Anyway, to sum it all up, nothing interesting happens. Matt Damon tries to bring back his Will Hunting character at the beginning with his speech on brain cells, only to bore us for the rest of the film with a character we don’t care about. The always bland Charlize Theron plays his semi-love interest. They had an affair a decade ago, and every once in a while the flame comes back, but not very convincingly. Will Smith’s first attempt at a dramatic role in quite a while might have been good if his character had been given more to do than just stand there looking vaguely mystical.

I believe you can make a great movie about anything. Chess may not be very interesting, but look at the beautiful Searching For Bobby Fischer. Math may be boring as well, but look at Stand And Deliver. Golf puts me to sleep quicker than a Merchant-Ivory film festival, but I still enjoyed Caddyshack. Heck, even Tin Cup had some redeeming entertainment value.

The Legend Of Bagger Vance takes a dry, sluggish and eerily zombie-like hobby and makes it even less interesting. Maybe that would make this movie a legend.

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