If life were a game of golf, then it is the perfect swing within everyone that helps play the game. “”The Legend of Bagger Vance”” tries to tie golf to life in similar fashion to other films such as “”The Natural”” and “”Field of Dreams.”” Whereas those films have a strong plot with understandable characters, “”Bagger Vance”” has neither the depth of character nor mysticism that define a great sports movie.
Adele Invergordon (Charlize Theron) is in financial trouble as her deceased father leaves her with a debt-ridden but fabulous golf course in Savannah. In order to promote the course, Adele creates a golf tournament between two golf greats, but the local businessmen will not sponsor the tournament without a local player.
The only person that can fill that role is Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon), a former amateur champion who has lost his touch after returning from war. Not only has Junuh lost his passion for the game of golf, but he abandons his girl, Adele.
Junuh enters the tournament even though he has lost his swing. Practicing his broken swing late at night, Junuh encounters an unknown stranger by the name of Bagger Vance (Will Smith). Vance becomes not only his caddie, but also his spiritual guide.
Without any depth to the characters, it is uncertain why Junuh was traumatized from the war. Nor is there understanding of how Adele feels and responds when Junuh abandons her. Inexplicably, there is almost no animosity between Adele and Junuh, even though Junuh abandoned her. Instead, there are a lot of nice and overly pleasant scenes where everyone seems to get along with one another.
Considering Savannah is part of the deep South, it’s awkward as to how Vance, a black man, can easily go anywhere he wants at an all-white golf course. Bagger plays quite a minor role, and his words of wisdom do not seem to resonate nor even motivate.
The entire film itself is a wild stretch of the imagination in terms of plausibility as everyone seems to rally around Junuh without much reason. The golf tournament is also an exaggeration, having shots and plays that would be rarely, if ever made, let alone being made over and over again in a small golf shootout. It is this exaggeration that leaves the film unsatisfying.
It is a disappointment considering the venerable Robert Redford (“”The Natural,”” “”A River Runs Through It””) is the director. Although beautiful cinematography and gorgeous golf scenes that mark Redford’s films are visible, the depth of the characters that define Redford’s work is not apparent.
Although the film tries hard to relate its message of golf and that perfect swing with life, it tries too hard. The result is a film that is pleasant, but not fulfilling to the soul.