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Movie Review

The Legend of Bagger Vance

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexual content

Reviewed by: Eric Schmidt
CONTRIBUTOR

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teen to Adult
Genre:
Drama
Length:
2 hr. 7 min.
Year of Release:
2000
USA Release:
_____
Matt Damon, Charlize Theron and Will Smith in “The Legend of Bagger Vance”
Featuring: Matt Damon, Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Bruce McGill, Dermot Crowley
Director: Robert Redford
Producer: Jake Eberts, Michael Nozik, Robert Redford
Distributor: Dreamworks SKG

“The Legend Of Bagger Vance” plays onscreen like a soft, peaceful symphony. I say this because it does not, refreshingly, rely on profanity or violence to get across its message. It is full of hidden aphorisms conveyed by Bagger Vance (Will Smith) to the golfer (Matt Damon).

“Bagger Vance”, a Depression-era movie, tells the story of Rannulph Judah (Matt Damon), who was the most predominant golfer in the South before leaving his girlfriend Adele (Charlize Theron) and his game to enlist in World War I. He returns to his hometown of Savannah, Georgia shell-shocked, with golf the furthest thing from his mind. One day, however, Adele, confronted by officials who want to build over her grandfather’s golf course (after he shot himself), promises that there will be a big-money golfing tournament held in Savannah in which famed golfers Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen will compete against each other. In need of a representative from Savannah to play in the tournament, the town selects Judah.

Judah, while practicing his game one night in a field, is confronted by Bagger Vance, who seems to “appear out of nowhere”. Vance agrees to be Judah’s caddie, commenting that his swing needs a lot of work. (Judah really got out of touch with his game during the years he was apart from it.) In the two days during which the tournament is held, Judah receives a wealth of life’s lessons from his caddie, who is much more than he seems.

Some scenes in this movie which may offend are where Judan explains to the young narrator of the story what happens to you when you drink, and where Adele tries, to no avail, to have sex with Judah so that he will compete in the tournament (No skin is shown, but the fact that there is a child pretending to be asleep in the room where this happends may be a concern.) For these reasons, I would not recommend showing this film to anybody younger than age 13. However, there is little profanity.

I have heard many complaints from Christians who feel that Bagger Vance’s character represents some radical new religious movement. I consider him to be nothing of the sort. If you watch the movie closely, you may come to the conclusion that Bagger Vance is Judah’s own guardian angel. A nice touch.

Many Christian morals can be found within this film. For instance, Judah helps a boy learn to have respect for his street-sweeping father, who could not find any other work to do in this Depression era drama. Towards the end of the movie, Judah shows honesty by admitting to the tournament judges that he accidentally moved his ball, even though this move cost him the win.

What a movie! This film deserves to win a place in your home collection. It most certainly will mine.


Viewer Comments
…an entertaining and optimistic if predictable sports yarn, but a closer look reveals the film is mostly a spiritual metaphor. There is no nudity or violence to speak of, however sexual situations are present (nothing too harsh). There’s also minute foul language and use of alchohol, but never gratutitously and never without a purpose. …The film is an excellent “golf” movie in itself, but the added elements of christianity bring much more enjoyment. Even people who are not into golf, such as myself, will love the movie’s underlying theme of hope and redemption. Bagger’s mysterious presence in Junuh’s life is eventually explained in the closing sequences, but even before that it’s not very hard to witness the parallels between the game of golf presented in the movie and a relationship with God.

Bagger acts as the conduit that ties both together. There is an interesting scene in which the lost soul Junuh and spiritual advisor Vance have a conversation about the Lord’s plan for his people. Christian themes abound within this movie, but if you can sit back and “think double” you’ll see that the entire movie is an allegory about Christianity. The author of the book intended for this message, much like the parable teaching method used by Jesus (and also employed by Vance). The story teaches on Christianity’s main concepts without being too pushy. That’s what I really like about it. It’s up to the individual’s level of commitment to decide how far to take the parable, but the message is still taught effectively. It’s excellent to take some of your nonbeliever friends too as it is a nonconfrontational way to expose Christian beliefs. This sort of basic plot is very similar to the “Touched by an Angel” television show.

People who don’t want to have to delve to deeply into the allegory presented will still have a great time in this feel-good, enjoyable film. This is an excellent film that balances its metaphor of golf and Christianity very well in a nicely presented, easy to swallow package, that never has a truely inappropriate moment. My Ratings: [4/4]
—Cody Kemmer, age 17
This movie was a disappointment. While the movie-making quality was fully satisfactory, I kept searching for the “wisdom” of Baggar, but found none. His utterances, which were terse and sometimes vague, were basically devoid of any profound meaning. Yes, there was encouragement and some mild “pushing” to get the lead actor some confidence, but great wisdom? deep meaning? No way. Most important of all, Baggar’s dialogue was devoid of any reference to God, the Bible, etc. Baggar merely was trying (feebly, to me) to get the golfer to play better by his own willpower, without the help of a true higher Power. And what about the sidelight of the “romance” between the two main characters? I would call it a perverse relationship, certainly not based on the roles the Bible teaches with respect to a man and woman (cf. Eph. 5). As you can imagine by now, I cannot recommend this movie. My Ratings: [2½/3]
—Max Bialy
My husband and I went to see this together, and loved it. It didn’t seem like a 2-hour movie. I’m not an avid golf fan yet loved it. The acting was superb, the plot smart, morally one of the best movies in quite awhile. 1 and ½ sexually suggestive scenes, but nothing shows, no noise. We walked out feeling good that we saw this movie. My Ratings: [3½/5]
—Mrs. Cone, age 21
…I guess if you compare this movie to the majority of offensive movies made today, it would seem pretty good. In the eyes of a Christian I would say no way! What I found particularly offensive as a women, was the scene where the golfer used a womens breasts to shoot his golf ball in. The other offensive scene was when the young couple in the movie were going to have sex with a young child in the room watching… My Ratings: [1/2]
—Liz Booms, age 28
…I was not disappointed. Yes, there was some profanity (the most offensive being that G.D. was said several times and then approximately 4 other curse words in the movie), some sexual references, some alcohol consumption, and very rare flashbacks to war scenes. The story was basically about a young hometown golfer who had lost his swing after going to war. Bagger Vance wandered into his life, became his caddy, and helped him to overcome his obstacles in life and on the course. Moral lessons in integrity and perserverance can be gleaned from this movie. Also, Bagger Vance can be paralleled to our loving heavenly Father who encourages us not to quit, who stands by quietly gently nudging us to do the right thing, but always allowing us to make the final decision, and who never gives up on us no matter how far gone we think we are. I highly recommend this movie to adults. So that parents can use this as an opportunity to reinforce the Biblical stance on fornication (remember it’s only implied in the movie), I believe they should accompany teenagers or at least see the movie before the teenagers. Young children should not see the movie in my opinion. There would be too much to be explained. Golf fans will love it. My Ratings: [3½/5]
—Dana Mays, age 29
Moving and wonderfully filmed. I read critics reviews that “The Legend Of Bagger Vance” is very very slow and so was a reluctant viewer. What a pleasant surprise: definitely one of the best films of the year! Okay, this is not WWF goes golfing. Action? Nah. Captivating? Indeed. It’s great to see superb actors like Will Smith and Matt Damon doing such quality work that compliments their talents. The directing and cinematography were also excellent: a beautiful film by Robert Redford made for the big screen. This movie is also deep as the main character played by Matt Damon faces his personal demons under the auspices of the mysterious caddy played by Will Smith. While atheists might be groaning in their popcorn, and agnostics scratching their heads; as a christian “The Legend Of Bagger Vance” was refreshing—the idea of God working for good always, even in the midst of wrong and suffering. Add in a romance. And as a final bonus, little offensive content (how rare). “The Legend Of Bagger Vance” is suitable for any audience teen up who would enjoy the flow of this thematic drama. 5 stars if you can catch it on the big screen; 3½ otherwise. My Ratings: [3½/5]
—Todd Adams, age 33
Just got back from seeing this with my parents who are both strong Christians and had no obejections to the film. There is not too much objectional stuff. Some profanity and sexual content (no nudity). Will Smith and Matt Damon are superb. I believe Smith is one of the greatest entertainers in business today. He does everything so well and is so likeable. Damon gives a solid performance as a struggling man after returning from war. Robert Redford’s directing is wonderful. Charlize Theron does not give a great performance. Overall, a solid film that everyone can enjoy. Golfers will love it. My Ratings: [3½/4]
—Britt Andrews, age 16
There were a few redeeming qualities to this movie. The music was excellent, the “proverbs” were inspiring, and the acting. The directing could have been much better, as the storyline. The love story was too choppy, and would have completed the triunity of the film (the other two being the 30s look and the golfing drama). Otherwise, a decent film, just not as good as I expected it to be. My Ratings: [3/3½]
—D. Stuart, age 19
…Pretty good movie by Dream Works and Robert Redford as the director. Very few profanities spattered throughout and of course Jack Lemmon taking God’s name in vain during the first two minutes of the movie. No nudity, but a couple of sexually suggestive scenes. Humor is well done by Will Smith and livens up the plot which is predictable. All in all it is an entertaining two hour movie worth your investment. My Ratings: [3½/3½]
—Sid and Brenda Owens, age 54
Movie Critics
…Golfers will particularly relate to this movie, but it has enough humor, suspense and romance for those seeking an enjoyable, but predictable story…
—Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…Many mild obscenities, a couple of scatological references, and an anatomical reference…
—Kids-in-Mind
…some sexual content in the form of a woman offering to exchange sex for a man’s word that he’ll compete in her golf exhibition…
—ScreenIt!
…modestly engaging yarn sporting reductive mystical and philosophical elements that are both valid and borderline silly…
—Variety