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This is THE classic sports-Walter Mitty-fantasy movie, with an ending
that may seem corny to cynical critics or those who prefer the book,
but was perfect for me and a lot of other people.
Granted, I am a little biased in my review since the movie was made in the area in which grew up. Having made many trips to the ballpark in which the movie was filmed, and to the old-fashioned soda shoppe where Robert Redford and Glenn Close re-unite, this movie was special to all of us in Western New York. It always a kick, too, (and a bit odd) to watch the final scene since the opposing pitcher is a personal friend.
I think I would have loved this movie regardless of the "home-field advantage." It's an interesting, involving story that has you really rooting for Redford's character. To have actors like Close, Robert Duvall, Richard Farnsworth, Kim Basinger, Wilfred Brimley, Darren McGavin, Barabara Hershey, Robert Prosky, Joe Don Baker and others in the "lineup" doesn't hurt, either!
The cinematography is beautiful, too. That was something I never really appreciated until after several viewings. There are some wonderfully subdued brown and golden hues in here. This is very pretty motion picture.
All the characters - the good and the bad, and there are plenty of both - are fascinating. It's also nice to see an actor in a baseball film that actually knows how to throw, hit and field a baseball. This is a great, old-fashioned storytelling.
A wonderful, magical fairy tale, and morality play. This is the type of
movie that as a new father, I cannot wait until my son is old enough to
watch this with me.
I know much has been made about Redford being too old to play Roy Hobbs. But much of the story asks you to believe in incredible things, so to me, this is a minor issue.
Everything about this movie is first rate. The cast which includes Redford, Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, Wilford Brimley and a pair of terrific performances turned in by Robert Duval and Darren McGavin.
It is easy to see that all of the actors trust the material and believe in their characters.
Barry Levinson tells the story in a straight forward style, he doesn't try to build any false suspense or surprise twists. When you watch this movie you know exactly what is going to happen long before it does, but you don't care, because it unfolds intelligently and without pretense.
My two favorite components of this movie are the cinematography by Caleb Deschanel and the beautiful, moving score composed by Randy Newman. I first enjoyed Mr. Deschanel's work on "Being There", and felt Mr. Newman's score for "Ragtime" was the best score of 1981.
"The Natural" is so much more than a baseball movie. It is a story about faith, good and evil, right and wrong, fathers and sons. It is about all that is good in baseball and in life.
10 out of 10
Whenever "The Natural" is on TV, I stop what I'm doing and watch it. I don't know why, exactly. I have been a baseball fan since I was a little kid and love the tradition. There is no other sport that has as much history. It's because one can isolate moments in time. Situations develop. Every announcer says things like, "Bottom of the third, men on first and third, Turley on the mound, Simpson is up, he's two for four today. The wind is blowing out to right field, etc." We can make words visual. In this wonderful movie, a man wants a piece of that tradition. He makes a horrible mistake along the way to the big leagues, and now is given one last chance. This is mythical. This is not realistic. To criticize it on the basis of its credibility is unfair. Even to compare it to the book is unfair. They are totally different. What one does with a camera should not be compared to the printed page. Malamud did his thing and now Barry Levinson is doing his. The cinematography is without peer. It is magical all the way through. The lighting as Glenn Close stands up in the stands is mesmerizing. This is more Greek myth than baseball story, but it is a baseball story, with the Ruth like gods and the day-to-day players. Roy Hobbs is like all of us in some ways and we love him for his endurance, patience, and drive. Redford brings him to life with that rugged face moving away from lost youth. It's a fine film.
I really enjoyed watching this movie. It seems like the very embodiment of the Hollywood cliche - a noble hero overcoming difficulty to achieve his dream...but somehow, The Natural manages to pull it off in a very un-glamorized way. Take the hero - he's 35 years old! It just seems refreshing not to always have a dashing young fellow of twenty as the main character. And then - an ulcerated stomach? What kind of an obstacle is that? Not a Hollywood one, I'll tell you that. This hero is actually believable - and Robert Redford plays him handsomely. He makes Roy Hobbs a real person, and a gentleman. I recommend The Natural for any Robert Redford fan, baseball fan - and anyone who just wants to see a neat, entertaining movie with a main character you can really root for.
As a writer, I am often compelled to read the books on which my
favorite movies are based. Since its original release, I have loved The
Natural as one of my favorite movies of all time, but it was only
recently that I read Bernard Malamud's novel on which the movie was
based. I cannot tell you how disappointed I was.
Malamud was a great writer, and was best known for winning a Pulitzer and the National Book award for The Fixer. His award winning work usually dealt with themes closer to his own heart, and Malamud didn't seem to "get" baseball in this book. Either that, or he had some axe to grind about baseball, and wanted us to hate it and all the people involved in it.
The Natural was Malamud's first novel and, as such, it suffers from shallow, simplistic characters, a muddy, at times almost unintelligible plot, and poorly attenuated subplots that almost seem like afterthoughts or clumsy devices slathered on to shore up weak story objectives. He does, however, have a historical understanding of baseball, and most of the events related to baseball in this story are composites of everything from the Black Sox to Babe Ruth to Christie Matheson and a string of other legends.
The main character, Roy Hobbs, is almost certainly based on the real life character Eddie Waitkus, and Malamud does little to imbue him with likable traits that would deepen him as a literary character. He even throws in a little Joe Jackson to compromise the character even further. The fact that he is called "Roy" is an obvious allusion to Sir Thomas Malory's 15th century opus "Le Morte D'Arthur." (Recall that "roi" is French for "king.") Why Malamud chose this story as a model is a mystery, since although he goes to great lengths to reinforce the Aurthurian connection (the baseball team is called the "Knights", the bat, "Wonderboy" is obviously "Excalibur"), he creates little of the Arthurian heroism in Roy Hobbes, or, for that matter, the sport of baseball as an allegory for the jousting of Chivalric heroes.
The character of The Whammer, played in the movie beautifully, if all too briefly, by Joe Don Baker, is more Ruth than Ruth, but he's gone in a flash, leaving yet another heroic void in the original story. And the women in The Natural are shallow, conniving and cheap and I have never been able to understand Malamud's literary allusions with regard to Morgan LeFave and Guinnevere, the women in Arthur's life. The Bad Guys in the book are ALL Bad, everyone else is mostly neutral, and there isn't any real good, or anything uplifting or affirming or positive in the whole thing.
Thank god for the movie. Barry Levinson's direction is gilded and glowing, and the whole film has a luminous aura that seems magical and enchanted and, compared to the wooden novel from which it came, a satisfying recast of the Arthurian legend. The screenplay was done by Roger Towne, who recently gave us The Recruit, and the changes he made to the story make all the difference in the world; less literary, perhaps, but more beautiful and elegant and not nearly so cynical and pessimistic. Compared to the Levinson/Johnson magic, the novel is almost amateurish, and recalls Ayn Rand's facile characters and stories, didactic and pedantic, and almost completely obscuring the Arthurian magic that Levinson coaxes from the story.
Once, when I had the chance to mention personally to Mark Johnson how beautiful The Natural was, he responded with a sincere modesty that fit the innocent tone of the movie, and he even gave me a keepsake from the film that I have to this day as a reminder of just how amazing an achievement this movie was, coming from so flawed a novel.
This was the first movie in which I loved Redford. He was older and deeper as an actor, and this was the beginning of his real golden age. Glenn Close was delightfully virginal and beautiful as a character almost completely created by the screenwriter, not the novelist. Kim Basinger is gorgeous and dangerous as the femme fatal, a portrayal that she would echo in her Oscar winning turn in L.A. Confidential.
Randy Newman's brilliant score was recycled a dozen times in subsequent movies, but none captured the beauty and nostalgia of The Natural. There are only a handful of movies so magnificently driven by their score, and The Natural remains Newman's best and most satisfying work.
In short, this is the best baseball movie ever. Whereas Malamud wanted to show baseball as jaundiced and commercial, Towne's screenplay shows us the baseball we loved as kids, and more. Malamud's dark and wholly unsatisfying ending is also rewritten, and if you find the final scene a little sweet, ask yourself if you really wanted to see the dismal finale that Malamud supplied.
I can't ever forget the first time(s) I saw The Natural. I was a member of the Directors Guild of America and there was a screening at the DGA. I love screenings of films about which I know nothing! And at the time I hadn't read the novel, really didn't know anything about it. I knew Barry Levinson and liked his work, and Randy Newman was, of course, a god. I just wasn't ready for it! Tears were streaming down my face from the beginning. The music would play and the waterworks would commence! It felt organic, not intellectual. It just "was". The only other film where I had that experience was, you guessed it, "Field of Dreams", another screening. When he asked his Dad if they could play a little catch, I lost it. The people I was with got up and slowly moved to other seats. But back to the Natch. I love it when a film subsumes reality, and every time I hear the theme at a "real" ball game, I smile. From time to time I'll put on the DVD to watch a scene, and I invariably end up watching the whole thing! If you haven't seen this film, you simply must!
****SPOILERS**** Wanting to be a professional baseball player since he
first picked up a baseball as a little boy Roy Hobbs, Robert Redford,
was on his way to becoming one when he was shot and almost killed by a
unstable young woman fan whom he met the day before on a train
traveling to Chicago where he was to be signed to play for a major
With all of his hopes of becoming a major leaguer dashed and a faded memory at 19 Hobbs, 16 years later, now at the age of 35 is back from playing a year of semi-pro ball to play in the big leagues and see if he still has it as a middle-age rookie and if he can make the team. Playing anywhere he's needed, on the bottom-dwelling New York Knights, and hoping against hope that the manager Pop Fisher, William Brimley,will put him in the lineup. Pop does reluctantly only to find out that Roy was heaven sent to not only win the pennant for the Knights but to save him from being brought out by a bunch unscrupulous shysters and gangsters from his share of stock he has in the team.
At times corny but still very moving story that despite its unbelievable plot is based on a true story that's almost as incredible as the movie itself. On the evening of June 14, 1949 Phillie first baseman Eddie Waitkus was gunned down in his hotel room by a crazed female fan and admirer. Waitkus with a bullet in his gut was left almost bleeding to death with his future as a professional baseball player non-existent. In only a year Waitkus came back, literary from the dead, to guide the Phillie "Whiz Kids" to the 1950 National League pennant! The "Whiz Kids" Won it on the last day of the season, like Roy Hobbs' Knights did in the movie, against the heavily favored Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field.
A real crowd pleaser with Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs out to prove to himself, as well as the sports world, that he still has what it takes to be a professional baseball player and comes across his old girlfriend Iris, Glenn Close. Iris unknown to Roy had and is raising his 15 year-old son Ted, Robert Rich III.
The movie "The Natural" has Roy torn between sweet and caring Iris and party girl and gold-digger Memo Paris, Kim Basinger,who together with the sleazy owner of the Knights Judge Prosky and big time bookie and gangster Gus Sands, Darren McGavin, wants Roy to throw the final game with the Pittsburg Pirates. This in order to put out Pop and make a killing betting against the heavily favored Knights.
Playing his heart and guts out Roy's past injury comes back to not only haunt but possibly kill him as his stomach wound opens up causing him to miss three games that the Pirates won. With the pennant on the line Roy, despite orders from his doctor not to, returns for the final do or die game at Knights Stadium and ends it, and his career, with a hot and sizzling Forth of July explosion on a cool windy and lighting struck October evening.
Predictable but still heart-lifting and exciting movie "The Natural" ranks right up there with the best baseball, as well as sports, films ever made. "The Natural" both beautifully and touchingly shows how the human spirit can overcome every obstacle that's thrown in front of it, natural or man made, when it frees itself from all the fears and negativity that's around it.
One of my all time favorites. Everything about this movie appears
authentic. From the time period, to the baseball scenes. These guys
really look like a baseball team.
Redford is low-key and stoic, but he hits just the right note for the character. Everybody else, especially Robert Duvall and Wilford Brimley, are fantastic.
A touching story, without being hokey. You get the feeling you are watching something mystical and magical along with all the characters in the movie, and it is played with just the right note.
Thrilling and inspiring. A well-made, well-acted film.
That's how I personally summed up this movie when I first saw it. And
what better place to couch a fairy tale than in a milieu with real
legends like Ruth and DiMaggio and Mantle ... or fabulous ones like
"The Whammer" and Roy Hobbs. The story of a man playing the game they
way it SHOULD be played, wishing while injured that his father could
have seen him, and coming through in the clutch for his father, his
lady, and his son. Beautifully shot by Caleb Deschanel, this isn't just
a movie, this is ARTWORK.
And who could forget the soundtrack written by Randy Newman, which has found its way into virtually every sports show on the tube at one time or another. Without a doubt, his best handiwork.
My son and I have watched this movie twice together. I can't think of any other movie we have watched twice--together. I'm 60 and my son is 26. There is the element of magic, of fairy-tale, of other-worldliness; there is the element of the naturalness, the character of Robert Redford; there is the element of baseball, the great sport-love of millions of boys in North America--and me back in the 1950s when I was growing up and dreamed of going to the majors; there's a touch of the sexual with Kim Basinger and Barbara Hershey----one could go on listing the pluses that this movie brings to the viewers. But I think what makes the movie in the end is the magic of Roy Hobbs as he hits a baseball further and harder than anyone ever has or(probably) ever will. Hobbs is the quintessence of the baseball hero and for sports lovers that's their religion. Hobbs is like Jesus come down to earth in the form of a baseball player, yet with sins of omission and commission. So, he's human and a superhero all at once.
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