The Legend of Bagger Vance
|DreamWorks Pictures; 127 minutes; PG-13|
|Cast:||Matt Damon, Will Smith, Charlize Theron|
Will Smith plays a quietly divine black caddy sent to counsel a troubled white golfer in Robert Redford's inspirational post-Depression drama The Legend of Bagger Vance. The description, unfortunately, makes more sense than the movie.
Bagger (Smith) materializes one evening as alcoholic Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon) practices putting. After WWI, Rannulph has lost his swing, his fiancée, Adele (Charlize Theron), and his overall grip on life. The ruined vet was once a budding golf prodigy and the toast of the town. Now he's soft-faced Matt Damon, not quite capable of evoking all the trauma Rannulph has supposedly undergone. Will Smith's character is a swankly offensive combination of Tiger Woods and an extra from Spike Lee's Bamboozled. Smith is relegated to offering aphorisms on golf (and by extension, life) under the auspices of service as Rannulph's caddy in a promotional tournament organized by Adele. Like most underdeveloped black characters, Bagger exists to provide assistance and simple folk wisdom to a white guy. Vance may be legendary, but he's never allowed emotional range or existence independent of Rannulph's.
Director Robert Redford is no stranger to genre of magical sports realism (The Natural). Yet, as a director, his efforts fall short. World War I, the Depression, race relations in the 1930s South, believable casting: Redford ignores these realities. He prefers an antiqued walk on the green.