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The Legend of Bagger Vance

The Plot: A young white man who has a natural gift for golf, but is rough around the edges, is forced to play in a tournament. Reluctant to receive instruction, he nevertheless is tutored by a Zen-like black mentor who helps our hero "find his swing," play brilliantly, and win the hand of a fetching blonde he's fallen for. Pop Quiz: Are you watching (A) Adam Sandler's Happy Gilmore, or (B) Robert Redford's The Legend of Bagger Vance? The answer, of course, is (B) you nimrods — Matt Damon as Rannulph Junuh in Bagger Vance struggles to "find his swing," whereas Sandler's hotheaded Gilmore must "find his happy place." And as it stands, Bagger Vance is the weaker film, a middle-aged version of Sandler's pro-tour frolic. Set in the American south in 1929, Junuh (Damon) is a former golfer now off his game, having stopped after he lost his "focus" during World War I (which is somehow tied into his virility). Returning to competition, Redford's film chooses to focus on the metaphorical nature of golf (like, deep man) rather than any external conflicts. But the game golf is a notch above lawn darts in terms of excitement, and this particular back-nine takes too long (127 minutes) to reach its enlightening conclusion. The first hour has the strongest elements, but once Redford settles on Junuh's relationships with his teacher/spiritual leader/caddy Bagger Vance (Will Smith), his girlfriend Adele (Charlize Theron), and the game of golf itself, The Legend of Bagger Vance deteriorates into a by-the-numbers sports saga. Of course, Happy Gilmore does that too. But unlike Bagger Vance, it has the benefit of being funny. DreamWorks' DVD release features a sharp anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with audio in DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1. Also included are a four-and-a-half minute audio interview with director Redford, a "making-of" featurette, two trailers, and cast and crew notes. Keep-case.

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