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Bagger Vance

The Legend of . . . Bad Casting

" ... gonna have an Oscar sittin' next to my Grammys ... "

That's a direct quote, from the song "Y'All Know" off of Will Smith's first release under that name, "Big Willie Style."

No, you didn't click the wrong link. This is not the music review.

One-half of that quote is accurate. Smith is virtually a lock to be nominated for the Best Rap Album Grammy every year he releases a CD. His success on the big screen, however, has been more financial than critical. He's done the action films ("Bad Boys," "Enemy of the State") and the sci-fi films ("Men In Black") and the movies that combine the two ("Independence Day," "Wild Wild West"), and while all of them have been huge successes at the box office, the reviews have ranged from average to downright pathetic. Smith tries drama this time, in "The Legend Of Bagger Vance."

This movie has a lot of basic problems. First off, the actors, while performing relatively well, are placed in the wrong roles. Smith's co-star Matt Damon (an Oscar winner in "Good Will Hunting," though not for acting) played a South Boston misguided genius a lot better than he plays a jaded war veteran. Smith is far too young to be believable in his role as the "life is like a box of chocolates" mentor, and Charlize Theron ("Reindeer Games," "Mighty Joe Young") really doesn't speak Southern very well. There a few bright spots though--the cameo from the legendary Jack Lemmon ("Grumpy Old Men," "The Odd Couple") is priceless, and Lane Smith (TV's "The Adventures of Lois and Clark) is good as a reporter who comes to Georgia to watch Matt Damon play golf.

Another big problem the movie has is the plot. It opens up a lot of threads, and does little to close them down. Matt Damon is a war veteran who manages to overcome his current situation without dealing with his past ones. Charlize Theron, who accepts Damon back after he disappeared on her for 10 years is the most forgiving woman in the entire world. And the little boy who becomes Damon's second caddy (played by J. Michael Moncrief) has a spat with his father over petty issues such as integrity and pride, and then the two miraculously make up without saying so much as one word to one another. This movie

(l to r) Will Smith and Matt Damon star in The Legend of Bagger Vance

has more loose ends than a supermodel who hasn't dried her hair in about a year.

And maybe the most annoying thing about the movie was the complete disconnection between the movie and the time in which it was set. The movie is set in 1930's Georgia; yet Bagger Vance, played by one of the blackest men in the world, is only berated by the white folks when he tries to leave the golf tournament. He's sitting in the white locker room, and no one says anything. Yeah, right. Another thing along the same lines is that during the golf tournament, plenty of black people can be seen among the spectators--probably not something that would have happened in Savannah in the 30s.

This movie is a cross between "The Horse Whisperer" and any movie you have to think way too much about to understand it (a couple of those being "The Thin Red Line" and "Magnolia.") Coincidentally, "Whisperer" star Robert Redford is the director of "Bagger Vance," and consequently, this movie is too chock full of the senseless romantic drivel and poetic nonsense that all us men just LOVE to see in movies--especially those about sports (can we call golf a sport now that an African-American is dominating it too? I think so.)

All in all, this is a movie with a weak plot that is well-acted--by the wrong actors. It's the best performance by Will Smith in a long time, but it's nothing to spend $7 for. Your best bet is to wait for the video--and when you go to Blockbuster to get it, swing by Blockbuster Music and pick up a copy of something that Will Smith will win an award for.

Review by Mitch Worthington

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