The Legend of Bagger Vance falls short of a hole-in-one

One good reason to see Legend of Bagger Vance would be a love for the game of golf. Another would be a love of Matt Damon, Will Smith or Charlize Theron. While not everyone finds watching golf thrilling, watching young, attractive and talented actors seldom disappoints.

The Legend of Bagger Vance is the latest directorial project from legendary film star Robert Redford. Redford takes the classic story of an underdog athlete and puts an original spin on it.

The film is narrated by Hardy Greaves played by veteran actor Jack Lemmon (Short Cuts), who recounts the adventures of his youth. As a young boy, Greaves served as the assistant caddy to one of the greatest golfers in the history of the South – Randolph Junnah. Academy Award winning actor Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting) plays Junnah, a young and talented golfer who returns from World War I a changed man from the horrors he saw. He runs away from the life he once knew, including the game of golf and his rich, beautiful girlfriend, played by Charlize Theron (Reindeer Games).

Junnah gets thrown back into the limelight when he agrees to play a golf tournament in his hometown of Savannah, Ga., challenging two of the biggest names in golf. In a very peculiar twist of fate, he hires Bagger Vance as his caddy. Vance, played by Will Smith (Wild Wild West), not only helps Junnah with his golf game, but teaches him that every man must put the past behind him.

One of the best aspects of the film is that it never takes itself too seriously. The plot is broken up nicely with lighthearted humor to keep it from becoming overly dramatic. The interaction between Damon and Smith adds much-needed laughs to the film. Bagger Vance is a different kind of caddy, often letting Junnah learn from his own mistakes but being sure to make wisecracks about them. Smith’s quick-witted humor is perfect for the part. He is easily the most entertaining actor in the film.

A young J. Michael Montcrief turns in a good performance as a golf-obsessed youth determined to see his idol Junnah succeed. The young boy’s innocent and na?ve spirit makes him the movie’s only lovable character.

Damon and Theron offer solid performances as well, with a few minor exceptions. Theron hurts her part failing to utter a believable Southern accent.

The film, a period piece set in the early 20th century, is realistic at times and unbelievable at others. Redford’s directing fails when he attempts to turn a golf tournament into an action-packed sporting event. When Junnah finally finds his swing – something that he has been trying to do since the war – the tournament around him dissolves and he stands alone on the golf course. Redford falls disappointingly short of creating a dramatic moment common to most classic sports films.

Like most films about sports, the plot is somewhat predictable. From the beginning of the movie, viewers have an easy time guessing whether Junnah will get back his golf game and his girlfriend.

Redford does a good job convincing the viewer they are seeing the action unfold in a Southern city trapped in the grips of the Great Depression. The film is filled with beautiful scenery. Breathtaking views of a new golf course and of Atlantic Ocean create a realistic setting for the film.

The Legend of Bagger Vance is a feel-good movie that leaves the viewer wondering about the mysterious Bagger Vance and what will become of the film’s main characters. Although Bagger Vance is a bit melodramatic and predictable at times, solid acting by famous – and attractive – actors and clever dialogue make it worth a trip to the theater.

The Legend of Bagger Vance is now playing.

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