The Legend of Bagger Vance

Bomb Rating: 

Give Robert Redford a few more years -- about the time he realizes he's going to die soon -- and he'll start churning out movies about down-and-out characters who find Jesus and change the world so that they will live forever in the memories of all who know and love them. He won't hide behind stupid ideas like Bagger Vance.

This movie is about finding your way in life through golf. How this is possible is beyond me, since golf has got to be the most idiotic game on the planet. And you did read correctly: Golf is a game. It's not a sport. As far as I'm concerned, this is like making a movie about some guy who makes an entire town proud by winning at checkers. You only get to call something a sport when there's a real possibility of someone bleeding at the end. The only way a golfer starts bleeding is if he catches an edge pulling the tab off his beer.

The title character in this film isn't the central character, Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon), who's a golfer from Savannah, Georgia, around 1917 who goes off to war and comes back a different man. The title character is the caddy (Will Smith), who helps him find his "authentic swing," rejoin the world of the living, and play in a golf tournament that rejuvenates and inspires Savannah during the Depression. Okay, first of all, Matt Damon leaves for the war and 14 years later looks younger than when he left. Same with his girlfriend, Charlize Theron, who looks 24 in 1917 and 25 in 1931. The other thing that's irritating about this movie is that Matt Damon looks like he couldn't hit a golf ball into the side of an airplane hanger if he were standing right in front of it. What's so hard about finding a guy who looks like he can actually play the game?

So, Bagger Vance shows up on the scene to help Junuh find his swing and compete in a golf match against Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen. Not once is the n-word uttered in the entire film. In fact, not one person treats Bagger with anything other than absolute respect. He even gets to sit in the locker room with Junuh. As somebody who worked at a country club not too long ago, let me tell you what blacks do there: They serve food and they clean up after the rich white people. If the black people are extraordinarily lucky, the rich white people will say "thank you" after the black people give them the little towels to wipe the fecal germs off their hands in the john. Until very, very recently, golf has been an activity for the wealthy, the rich, and the white. To create a mythology of the South in which a black man teaches a white man how to play golf amidst racial tolerance and understanding is a liberal betrayal of the highest caliber.

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  • This is a curious film. There was virtually no publicity prior to its opening and the few screenings that did appear were sponsored by church groups or other Christian organizations.

  • According to this movie, the little black kids of America owe all their sports knowledge, acumen, physical skills and inspiration to the white man.

  • If you haven't seen this movie, then you probably shouldn't read this review, because there really isn't any way to talk about how bad the film is without talking about what happens at the end.