Critic Reviews



Based on 19 critic reviews provided by Metacritic.com
The Natural is a fairy tale from start to finish, full of wildly implausible scenes that win over our emotions because, frankly, that's the way we'd like life to be. Being a baseball fan involves repeatedly experiencing exquisite pain and exquisite joy. Well, there's a lot of both in The Natural.
Arguably the best baseball movie ever made. The film works not because it is flawless in its depiction of what transpires on the diamond (more on a significant mistake later), but because it captures the spirit of the game at a time when baseball truly was the National Pastime.
Directed by Barry Levinson (this was his sophomore theatrical feature following Diner), the film is quite moving. Redford delivers a great, soft-spoken, naturalistic performance and he's paired with a solid all-star cast. Randy Newman's score is absolutely terrific, too. One of the best he's ever done.
Levinson doesn’t seem to care about redemption, guilt, or any of that other nonsense. He wants to make “the great American baseball hero movie.” He wants to say something about old neighborhoods and fathers and sons playing catch in the late summer evening. The cinematography is lush, the Randy Newman score is epic. The period detail and baseball scenes are top notch.
An otherwise fine sports fantasy is dragged down by an overindulgence in sentimentality.
Somewhat overly sentimental, lacking the novel's subtlety, and less interesting when the action leaves the ball park, Barry Levinson's beautifully shot film is nonetheless a charming fairy tale.
Why didn't they make a baseball picture? Why did The Natural have to be turned into idolatry on behalf of Robert Redford? Why did a perfectly good story, filled with interesting people, have to be made into one man's ascension to the godlike, especially when no effort is made to give that ascension meaning?
Mr. Levinson, who both wrote and directed Diner, the small, exquisitely realized comedy about growing up aimless in Baltimore, here seems to be at the service of other people's decisions. Though entertaining in short stretches, The Natural has no recognizable character of its own.
It would be a gigantic understatement to say that Barry Levinson's 1984 film version compromises the original ending, given that it concludes with perhaps the most spectacularly triumphant swing in movie history. And yet as much as it betrays the tragic underpinnings of Malamud's story, the phony ending remains the film's most powerful sequence, earning an ironic place in baseball's iconography.
A moment or two between Richard Farnsworth and Wilford Brimley recall the verbal skills of Levinson's Diner; the rest of the film is bloatedly “visual”: blinding backlighting, grandiose slow motion, overstudied montage.

More Critic Reviews

See all external reviews for The Natural (1984) »

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Reviews | User Ratings | External Reviews