The Natural (1984) (PG)

This review contains SPOILERS!
"The Natural" is just puff nonsense. It's not that I don't like sports movies, I just think that "The Natural" is an overblown piece of nonsense.
The movie, which often indulges in more than a little foolishness, begins with a slow-motion shot of a boy catching a baseball. Technically, this is the prologue of the movie. During the main titles, we saw Robert Redford get on a train and breathe deeply. Then we go back in time and see his childhood, which for the most part, seems kind of nice.
He tosses a baseball with his dad, who tells him that he has a great talent, but that's not enough for him to be successful. After a cutesy montage of wow-how-precious father-son moments, the boy's father randomly falls over in a field of a heart attack and dies...bummer.
Running to his dad in slow-motion while the music swells, we all realize that this boy will be haunted by his past the rest of his life...and if not, we will soon enough. What appears the be the same night of the father's death, a lightning bolt from a terrible storm strikes a great tree outside the boy's house—who he is living with now and how they are paying for his room and board, we don't know and a mother is never introduced so we have to assume that this young kid is self-sufficient and not distraught at the loss of his only parent—splitting it in two. The boy goes out to the tree and using stuff his finds in the tool shed he fashions that best freakin' baseball bat in the world! Onto is he carves the word wonderboy with a lightning bolt next to it.
Really? Wonderboy? This hardly seem like the action of a boy who just lost his father the day before.
Anyways....many years later.
Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) is now a grown man, presumably in his mid-twenties. He's been accepted to try-out for a baseball team. He quickly runs off to tell his sweetheart, Iris (Glenn Close), who decides that this moment is the best for them to make love.
Then it's off to Chicago. On the train he meets a big-time baseball player and a sports writer, Max Mercy (Robert Duvall). A careless bet is waged that this big-shot can be struck out by Roy Hobbs.
After Hobbs absolutely devastates the man, his sponsor walking away ten dollars richer, they get on another train and continue on.
Roy meets a lovely woman who sees the innocence in him. He is a virginal (well, not really), unsuspecting, small-town kid and she seems like a vixen.
An invitation is sent to him, one that ends with a bullet.
It's another 'years later' section, this time we are introduced to a struggling baseball team and Roy Hobbs once more, who has recovered from his little accident—an accident that is never, ever, ever, ever explained. We all realize how this is going to end—Hobbs will help said struggling baseball team achieve greatness with his skills. Though now, he wants to be a right-fielder and not a pitcher...why? Who knows?
It takes a lot of convincing to even get himself onto the field; but Hobbs is such a natural (see what I did there?) that he blows the hats off his coaches when they finally see him play.
But then, even more ludicrousness begins.
So the manager of the team is being threatened by a judge who has a special interest in the team (why?), then there's the mysterious blonde woman (Kim Basinger) who has a terrible effect on Hobbs (why?), and lastly we have the angelic Iris who brings great fortune to Hobbs (WHY?).
A per usual of the sports movie that glorifies an individual, "The Natural" has Hobbs overcoming loads of personal problems that shouldn't be problems. Why is he so haunted by things that he had no control over?
But besides that terrible script and the horrible moments of cliche beaten nonsense, the film suffers because of its over dosage in camp; but not that good kind.
The first time we see the wonderboy bat when Roy is an adult, it is accompanied with a crash of, that was subtle. Tears are shed, guns are pulled (what?), beams of light illuminate characters, oops, you're a father, fireworks, the end.
Near the beginning of the movie, the vixen woman makes a comment about Roy Hobbs being a god. If Homer had seen him pitch, he would have written about baseball. Indeed, Roy Hobbs is a superhero and one that is easy to like for an audience.
Still, the largest problem with the movie is the repeated line: "You've got a gift...but that's not enough." The first time it's spoken is by Roy's father, the second time it's by a wormy character who is trying to get Hobbs to throw a game. So why this same line from two different characters? It's supposed to show you that Roy is honoring his father's memory by being more than his talent....what it actually does is show the audience that Roy never trained hard. We never see him sweating in the gym, running laps around the track, doing push-ups. He's just work is put into it at all! That's a great moral for kids.
Also, death by fence is kind of far-fetched...even for a movie as nonsensical as this.

Score: ★★

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