Matt Damon was acclaimed for his acting skills in 1998's Good Will Hunting, but can he, a man who has never played golf before, and Will Smith, the guy who's only done action comedies so far, pull off a golf movie with the name of The Legend of Bagger Vance.
The answer is "no," but the movie is nowhere near a complete loss.
Matt Damon plays a minor golf legend who has been out of the loop for ten years. Devastated by a horrifying World War I, he never returned to golf. But when his ex-girlfriend and owner of a dying golf course seek his help, he is forced out of retirement to battle the two greatest golfers. At first it doesn't look like he will succeed until he meets Bagger Vance, played by Will Smith, who, through a bunch of wisdom-filled lines, leads him back to the man he used to be.
Matt Damon does a good job as our golfer, but I wouldn't say that there's anything outstanding about his performance. The character really doesn't bring much in the way of emotion, but he could have if the script had been done right. Will Smith shows that he can act with a Southern accent, but his character, the title character, is extremely annoying. We are never given any insight into his character, which is the point, but he just talks in a bunch of uplifting fragments. He does have some good lines, but a lot of those were shown in the previews. Even in drama Will Smith does comedy. And then there's Charlize Theron, who is an excellent actress, especially for early year roles; she isn't anything special, either.
I did like Robert Redford's direction for the most part but as the movie lags on the flaws become more and more apparent. He throws in a lot of silent scenes for no particular reason, and some of the editing wasn't very good. Some scenes that should have been more dramatic weren't, and at other times scenes were done too dramatically when they shouldn't have been.
One thing I did like was that Matt Damon's character wasn't perfect. He starts out as a drunk, turns into a normal guy, and then gets overzealous and pays the price. I also liked the kid.
Will golf lovers love this movie? No, but they will be impressed by it. Most of the movie is the golf game, and, like always, the final shot (or, of course in this case, putt) is extremely suspenseful. Sometimes the play isn't shown to its fullest, but at other times it is very well done.
Still, the biggest problem with the movie is that it just is boring. It seems long and drawn out, and not that much really happens.
The Legend of Bagger Vance is a decent movie, but it is slow and its title character isn't very entertaining. It's a few strokes above par.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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