Webmaster’s note 1/17/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.
The Legend of Bagger Vance
review by Duryea Edwards
Will Smith’s Bagger Vance has that special gift. He doesn’t just look at you, he looks into you. As he flashes that “Aw shucks, I’m just a good ole negro boy” polite smile he looks directly through you, and he knows where the pain is and what it is hiding behind.
Then comes the hard part. Bagger has to be patient. He has to hover on the periphery of your life while he waits for you to come to him for advice. As much as he knows what needs to be done, he can’t force you to do it. He can’t make you do what is best for you. You have to realize on your own that you need his help.
Matt Damon’s Rannulph Junuh is a decidedly difficult task for Bagger. He is a man adrift after the emotional trauma he encountered during the First World War. He drinks too much. He gambles too much. He exists and he takes up space, but he does not really live.
Having been given the chance to pick up his old career as a golfer, Junuh is somewhat grateful for the opportunity but is also uncomfortable because of the pressure to do well. There are those who expect him to just pick up a set of clubs and walk out to the course and act as though the war never happened.
The Legend of Bagger Vance is a solid example of the fact that fantasy does not have to involve swords, dragons, monsters or other such things … That it can unwind quite well in a world of regular people with regular lives. It is also a solid example of the fact that motion pictures do not necessarily need large budget special effects to present fantasy … That a strong script and good acting can help the audience to suspend disbelief and follow the flow of things.
Damon does a masterful job of being the man who finally comes to the conclusion that he needs to find himself, but then has no idea of where to look. It pains him greatly to admit that Bagger Vance might have answers that could help his life.
Smith’s acting is wonderfully understated as he breaks away from the types of characters he had played in movies such as Men in Black and Wild Wild West. The intensity that had previously been played out in a strutting walk and a sharp voice is now held inside. As it barely peeks out in the flash of a smile or the emphasis of a word, it takes on a truly impressive quality.
I strongly recommend this movie.