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JZeth

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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
It was THIS close, 15 April 2006
7/10

The Legend of Bagger Vance is one of the most difficult movies to evaluate that I've yet come across. Permit me to get this out of the way immediately: I promise that you will enjoy this movie, unless you come from one of two particular categories:

1. Serious golf fanatics; 2. Serious film-making fanatics. That is to say, if you're the kind that pays as much attention to each shot, how it was arranged, how the script flows, etc., this movie will irritate you.

The movie is headlined by two of the best actors of our generation, Will Smith (Bagger Vance) and Matt Damon (Rannulph Junuh). Junuh is a legendary young golfer who goes off to war, sees his entire company killed, and returns a shattered shell of a man. Brought up by fate (and his old flame, Adele Invergordon) to compete in the greatest golf match ever yet seen against legends Bobby Jones and Walter Hegen, Junuh has to rediscover himself, with the aid of an unlikely source, a young black caddy named Bagger Vance who pops out of nowhere.

Matt Damon has been excellent in nearly every film in which I've seen him, but not this one: Damon clearly is uncomfortable with the role. He shines in a couple particular scenes (most notably his dressing-room talk with young Hardy and his flashbacks to the war) that don't actually involve golf, but overall he isn't very believable as Junuh. This film also, parenthetically, finally made me understand why an actor as talented as Damon has spent his career on the B list and not the A list: He's consistently just about unwatchably bad in romantic scenes and never seems to develop any real chemistry with any actress. It's his one big weakness, and in Hollywood it's a glaring weakness. It shows in The Legend of Bagger Vance, too.

Will Smith -- and here I may diverge from the general opinion -- turns in a fantastic performance as the mysterious Bagger Vance. He carries Damon for a lot of the film and shows off his underrated versatility. Anyone out there who dislikes Smith because you think of him as a loudmouth -- I highly recommend you watch him in this film. He's the black Robin Williams, an extraordinarily talented actor who's cast himself into one too many slapstick comedies.

I would say the biggest thing this film has going for it is the spectacular performance of the supporting cast. Charlize Theron is very believable as Adele Invergordon. J. Michael Moncrief (who?) also dazzles as the young child Hardy Greaves, who idolizes Junuh and serves as his forecaddy for the tournament, and the story is told through the nostalgic eyes and voice of the aged, near-death Hardy Greaves (Jack Lemmon in his final appearance). Joel Gretsch as Bobby Jones and the underrated Bruce McGill as Walter Hegen are tremendous. Gretsch especially is outstanding, managing to provide a very believable rendition of Bobby Jones, who is to this day considered by many the greatest golfer who ever lived (the story is fictional but it makes use of the two greatest golfers of its time; Bobby Jones and Walter Hegen were real golfers.)

Given everything above plus the tremendous story borrowed from the book of the same name, you would think this movie would be a complete home run. It is worth watching and enjoyable, but it isn't everything it could be. It moves the story forward in a herky-jerky fashion, and most notably, we skip almost instantly from Junuh's meeting Bagger Vance to the beginning of the big tournament, which is just disorienting. The tournament itself is very well-done if a little dragged out, and the movie concludes on a very emotional, bittersweet note.

The two things, then, that hold this film back from being a true classic are 1. Its odd, confusing pacing, and 2. Damon, whose performance is subpar but you can never quite put your finger on why. Still, I'll finish where I started: Avoid this film if you're an avid golf nut (as the actual golfing is at times highly unrealistic) or a film nut (as the pacing and some of the script will drive you insane). I like golf and play it often; I like movies and watch them often. I'm fanatical about neither, and I love The Legend of Bagger Vance despite its flaws. If you haven't seen it yet, you won't regret renting it some rainy Friday night.

129 out of 180 people found the following review useful:
See This Movie., 2 June 2005
9/10

Deep Impact is a well-done and thoughtful film that powerfully delivers the human touch in its pondering of the age-old question: What if extinction was just around the corner?

Deep Impact is most often compared to its death-comet partner from the summer of '98, Armageddon. Deep Impact is a drama; Armageddon is an action film, and delivers just what we would expect from an action film, namely, over-the-top characters, a simplistic storyline, and an abundance of special effects. Deep Impact presents just the opposite: Characters that are notably human, several dovetailed story lines, and it saves the special effects (which are very good) for the movie's climax.

Armageddon did better at the box office primarily because it was much more hyped, and because it featured an A-list star (Bruce Willis) while Deep Impact did not. Its enjoyability, though, is very limited: If you are not a fan of the action genre, you will not like Armageddon. Deep Impact is the substantially better film and reaches out to the viewer to a far deeper degree.

As you certainly know, the plot revolves around the fact that a seven-mile-wide comet is on a collision course with earth, and if it makes impact it will represent an Extinction Level Event (i.e., the death of all life on the planet). Having about a year and a half's notice of this, the U.S. and Russian governments send a spacecraft, the Messiah, to destroy the comet by drilling nuclear warheads into its core and then detonating. The movie focuses on three primary story lines: 1. The young reporter Jenny Lerner (Tea Leoni) and her struggles with her career and her parents; 2. The high-school couple of Leo Biederman (who discovered the comet; Elijah Wood) and Sarah (Leelee Sobieski); 3. The crew of the Messiah.

All three story lines are done in such a way that the viewer easily sympathizes with the very believable characters. The best done of the three is the spaceship's crew, although the most time is spent with Jenny. They all suffer from the film's only notable problem: The story lines seem somewhat rushed. Considering its broad scope, Deep Impact clearly would benefit from an extra 30 minutes to develop, especially with the underdone angle with Leo and Sarah, but the directors evidently decided two hours was all they could use.

Deep Impact, as I mentioned, lacks an A-list star, but it does feature superb performances from two of the best supporting actors of our generation: Robert Duvall (Spurgeon Tanner, captain of the spaceship) and Morgan Freeman (Tom Beck, the U.S. President). Duvall is definitely the standout of the film with an A+ performance as Tanner.

As for the other actors/actresses: Tea Leoni (playing Jenny Lerner) gets the most face time in the film and delivers a believably good performance. Maximillian Schell as Jenny's father is the one notable casting mistake; I'm not sure what they were going for with him, but they could have done better. Venessa Redgrave does well as Jenny's divorcée mother.

Elijah Wood (now a star but at the time just an up-and-comer) works very well as the teenage Leo Biederman, and Leelee Sobieski as his girlfriend Sarah gives us as good a performance as we can expect, considering how woefully underdeveloped her character is. The film arguably devotes a bit too much time to Jenny and her father and not enough to Leo and Sarah.

If you haven't seen this movie yet, it should be at the top of your must-see list. The film moves at a good pace (if a bit fast), grabs your attention at the beginning and holds it throughout, and it features a truly exceptional final 20-25 minutes. What stands out most about this movie is its human touch and sensitivity. It manages to probe an impressive array of human emotions in two hours' time, and it will leave you with plenty to think about -- although it probably will not leave you with dry eyes. There are precisely three movies I have seen that caused the room to get dusty around me (if you get my drift), and this is one of them.

In conclusion: See this movie.