Based on the debut novel by author Steven Pressfield, this period sports drama makes a Herculean effort to reach the soaring heights of fantasy achieved by such similar films as Field of Dreams (1989) and The Natural (1984), but falls short on most accounts. Uneven in execution, The Legend of Bagger Vance deviates frequently between conflicting tones, unfolding as a nostalgic paean to a bygone era in some scenes, an ironic fantasy in others, and at times even a broad comedy. This dissonance does a talented cast -- including Will Smith and Matt Damon -- little good and leaves Smith in particular struggling to create a full-bodied human being out of his cipher of a character, one that's essentially a dramatic device. Arguably adding to the disappointing final product is the attempt by Pressfield and director Robert Redford to lend such a pastoral sport as golf the emotional power and intensity that most audiences equate (at least cinematically) with the national pastime, baseball.
by Karl Williams review