- Movie Rating -

The Natural (1984)

| May 11, 1984

What exactly is this movie about?  Is it baseball movie or a religious parable?  I don’t get it.  I am not a person who lionizes the game of baseball as a holy sacrament to the American landscape but apparently the filmmakers do.  It’s America’s great old pastime, sure, but The Natural treats the legacy of the game with the same fervor as those political adds the begin with the thresher in the wheatfield.  When we arrive at the end of the movie with Robert Redford playing catch with his son, that’s the feeling I got only because that’s been the temper of the movie from the beginning.

Added to this is a weird fascination with Redford’s face.  He’s a handsome man who is middle-aged but seems to defy the ravages of father time thanks to some very sumptuous cinematography by Caleb Deschanel that makes him look like a golden god.  And, in fact, that’s how the movie treats him.  A good deal of shots in this movie shows him upward so he seems larger than he is.

Redford stars as Roy Hobbs, a man who mysteriously comes out of nowhere, a middle-aged man who seems to have a supernatural ability with the game of baseball.  He’s a man too good to be true and you keep waiting for the moment when he reveals that he was “sent here to save us”, but I was surprised that the movie offered up an even dumber idea than that.  Seems that back during his childhood, Roy’s dad taught him the game of baseball then died of a heart attack near an oak tree.  That night during a violent thunderstorm, the tree is struck by lightning and young Roy takes the wood and makes a bat out of it.  So . . . what?  The bat is supernatural?

The film is so firmly tilted in Redford’s favor as to give him a heavenly glow and so many shots are turned his way that the other pretty good performances are lost in the luster.  They are interesting people, I guess.  We get the gruff team manager (Wilford Brimley), the nice old coach (Richard Farnsworth), the understanding love interest (Glenn Close) and the pesky journalist (Robert Duvall).  These are super-talented people but they are lost in Barry Levinson’s anointing of Redford as a golden god.

This isn’t about baseball, it’s a tributary reel that focuses on making baseball a bigger deal than it is.  I swear, at the end of this movie when Hobbs pops a flyball that busts the stadium lights so that sparks shower down upon him as he rounds third base backed by Randy Newman’s booming score, I almost expected the hand of god to reach down onto his shoulder and say “Time to come home.  You’ve done enough.’  It would have been par for the course, I assure you.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1984) View IMDB Filed in: Drama