The Legend of Bagger Vance Movie Review

Robert Redford's singular devotion to American mythology continues in The Legend of Bagger Vance, the story of a golfer who's lost his swing and the caddy who brings it back to him. "Inside each and every one of us," says Vance (Smith), "is our one true, authentic swing." It's a metaphor intended to apply to all walks of life, on the fairway or otherwise. If oversweet metaphors like this are your bag, then you're really going to like Bagger Vance.

The story opens in the present with an aged Hardy Greaves (Jack Lemmon) suffering a heart attack on a golf course. As he lies quietly smiling to himself, he muses on the frequency of his cardiovascular failures and his love of the game of golf, which meanders into a quixotic narration on the career of Rannulph Junuh (Damon). Soon the narrative fades to the past and we see Junuh at the height of his career, in the company of the enchanting Adele Invergordon (played by Charlize Theron of The Devil's Advocate fame; who, by the way, happens to represent the purest embodiment of good, wholesome sex that the film industry has to offer).

Junuh is the greatest golfer in Savannah, Georgia, Miss Invergordon is his true love, and they are about as privileged as anyone in the South until Junuh ships off to serve his country in World War I, whereupon his entire platoon is slaughtered in the grand history of Saving Private Ryan. Returning home he finds himself a mere shell of his former self and--tragedy of tragedies--he has lost his golf swing. This is about the dumbest point in the entire film, the point at which I nearly wrote the whole thing off. There is absolutely nothing convincing about Junuh's wartime horrors. Damon's portrayal of shock at the sight of his slain comrades is not unlike his appearance of dismay at losing his MIT girlfriend in Good Will Hunting. Fortunately, like any good professional, I persevered.

Skipping ahead a few years, to the Great Depression, Miss Invergordon has inherited her father's golf course and, determined to fend off bankruptcy, throws a high profile golf tournament. How exactly this is going to work is not quite explained and, presumably, no one in town can afford to pay admission, and she's giving away ten grand to the winner, but anyway.... The two greatest golfers of the day are coming to play and Savannah will be represented by none other than the washed up and unshaven Rannulph Junuh.

Enter Bagger Vance. Will Smith is predictably likable and witty as the colloquially wise vagabond shaman who saves the day--and the story--from otherwise certain grief. The Bagger Vance character is not a new archetype for Hollywood, but Smith's delivery of Vance's black Southern dialect manages to convey an element often missed in such film portrayals. Where other stereotyped victims of segregation appear merely ignorant or uneducated, we find a wit and, more importantly, a will in Bagger's voice. It's a subversion of language intrinsic to African American culture, born of wisdom and cunning in the face of adversity. Will Smith's ability to carry this to the surface lends wondrously to our imagination of his character, and forges a heightened standard for future actors. Something in Smith's delivery is so conducive to the suspension of disbelief as to render all things permissible, and it took only a few scenes to reel this critic in.

In the end, Bagger Vance is a strong, memorable film, filled with rich dialogue and vital camera work. Though Redford seems to have fallen back too heavily upon his overused and rambling A River Runs Through It narrative style, the strength of the underlying story carries it off. Better directorial focus might have made for a hole-in-one, but as it stands, this movie's a solid birdie.

(left to right) Smith, golf club, Damon.


The Legend of Bagger Vance Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: PG-13, 2000


More Will Smith

Amber Heard In, Matthew McConaughey Out Of 'Magic Mike XXL'

Matthew McConaughey will not be reprising his role as strip club owner Dallas in the upcoming sequel to Magic Mike, Magic Mike XXL. The 2015...

Martin Lawrence Confirms 'Bad Boys 3'

It’s official: Bad Boys 3 is happening. Martin Lawrence all but confirmed the movie when he sat down with Conan O’ Brien to promote his...

Robin Thicke's New Album Titled 'Paula': Ten More Cringe-Worthy Album Titles

In perhaps the most audacious and downright ridiculous move the music business has witnessed in the last few years, singer Robin Thicke has announced his...

Could Will Smith's Role In Ridley Scott's NFL Drama Land Him His First Academy Award?

Will Smith is in talks to star in Ridley Scott’s upcoming NFL drama, currently untitled. Will he be doing a Denzel Washington and Samuel L....


Will Smith Lands Lead Role In NFL Concussion Drama Based On 'Game Brain' Article

Will Smith is set to star in another sports-based movie.But this time the 45 year-old actor won't be playing the athlete, he will be portraying...

Will Smith To Star In NFL Drama Based on 'Game Brain' Concussion Article

Will Smith is close to signing up for Peter Landesman's untitled drama about the NFL's concussion problem, based on the GQ article Game Brain. Ridley...

Jada Smith Reacts To Controversial Photo Of Her Daughter, Willow, And Moises Arias

Jada Smith has reacted to a photograph her daughter Willow, aged 13, took whilst on a bed with a 20-year-old actor. The image was posted...

Will And Jada Pinkett-Smith Step Up To Defend Willow's Questionable Instagram Shot With 20-Year-Old Actor

After a picture of 13-year-old Willow Smith, lounging on a bed next to 20-year-old actor Moises Arias hit the web, gossip blogs practically exploded. Speculation...