Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

So here’s the situation. I wake up one Saturday morning and turn on the TV. I always turn on the TV first thing and put in on the news to make sure I didn’t miss anything so if somebody says something like ‘Hey, It’s as shame The President got shot.’ I’m not caught looking around all stupid-like saying ‘huh?’ Since I didn’t miss anything I start changing channels and see that my fresh new HD channel, Universal HD, has just begun showing ‘The Natural’. I’m urging myself not to linger, to turn off the TV because I have way too many things to do to get caught watching this movie… a movie I haven’t seen in twenty plus years but a movie I recall absolutely being enchanted by. Two and a half hours later a good portion of my Saturday was shot since I was too weak to remove myself from the TV until Roy Hobbs magical baseball somehow electrocuted every single light bulb in the old New York Knights stadium. I didn’t think they played night ball in the thirties.

Of course Robert Redford is baseball wunderkind Roy Hobbs who on his way to becoming the greatest baseball player in the history of the planet earth found this journey slightly derailed by a bullet delivered form the gun of the completely deranged Harriet Bird (Barbara Hershey). A decade and half later Roy finds himself being called up from the minors to play for the struggling New York Knights and their cantankerous manager Pops Fisher (Wilford Brimley). Pops knows a rat when he smells one and he is convinced that The Judge (Robert Prosky), a majority owner in the Kinghts, has sent this ancient rookie his way to further derail the Knights season and reap the reward of a bet that would make The Judge the sole owner of the Knights, and as such Pops refuses to let Roy play in any schoolboy games. Until he sees him swing that stick.

Now Roy is an absolute sensation, the old rookie from nowhere who is straight killing New York City with his otherworldly skills. Scurrilous sports reporter Max Mercy (Robert Duvall) thinks he remembers Roy from somewhere but Roy isn’t talking. The

Judge is none to happy with Roy’s success because now his plans are about to be derailed. Professional gambler Gus Sands (Darren McGavin) also has a vested in seeing the Knights go down the tubes and sends a professional cooler Roy’s way in Memo Paris (Kim Bassinger) to slow the red hot home run hitter down. You would’ve think that Roy would’ve learned his lesson dealing with strange pretty women by now. But there’s always the one that got away, and that would be Roy’s old girl from the farm Iris (Glenn Close) who still light’s Roy’s fire. Thing is the unmarried Iris does have a child from a previous relationship some decade and a half a go. Can you say ‘deadbeat dad’?

With everything on the line, with Roy’s grave injuries coming back to haunt him, with Roy’s past on the verge of being revealed will Roy be able to overcome it all and save the day? It’s a sports fairytale my friends, what do you think?

You know it’s a little different watching something as a teenager and then watching it again, almost like the first time, as a beaten down old man. The magic of Barry Levinson’s film is still there. Completely. If it wasn’t there, at least if it wasn’t there for me, I would have been able to walk away from it and I couldn’t. But as a kid a movie I simply saw ‘The Natural’ as one of the best movies ever made but now I see this movie more for what it really is and that would be a fairly tale for boys. A wonderful fairy tale but really it’s not all that much different from ‘Snow White’ or ‘Rapunzel’ or any number of completely ridiculous mythical tales we’ve seen or read. In a fairytale the story is less interested in actually telling this tale than it is in building the myth of the main character so that when the prince comes to kiss that main character to wake her up or when the prince finally finds that girl who the shoe fits… it just means so much more. Thus we have our fair haired simple hero Robert Redford asleep for a long time until he his finally awakened only to have the evil powers that be attempt to put him back to sleep until he is rescued by the fair haired maiden. More or less. You see when Robert Redford and Glenn Close had their powerful scene in the hospital right before the big game, and Roy Hobbs was spilling out his emotional guts, all he spoke of was his love of baseball. He didn’t even say he missed Iris even a little bit. But then this is a baseball movie, a fairytale for boys, and we don’t have time for that nonsense. As a matter of fact the hero getting the girl at the end is a given, this is why Roy hit and quit Iris fifteen years ago because he knew, just as we know she’d be there waiting when he finally got back around to her. Roy’s Prince Charming is represented by baseball and thus what is really important is that he comes through in the end for his teammates, and he had best do it in spectacular fashion. If there’s a better sports ending in a movie than the ending of ‘The Natural’, I’d like to see it. Now speaking tactically about this ending, I’m thinking I’m not pitching to Roy Hobbs who is the equivalent of Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth and Joltin’ Joe all wrapped into one. I don’t care that first base wasn’t open, I’m walking him. No way am I pitching to that clown. Obviously an intentional walk isn’t much very dramatic, but probably more realistic. This had me wondering why Barry Levinson and his writers didn’t just load the bases.

But that’s just me prattling on about silly stuff which doesn’t affect the bottom line of this movie one little bit. ‘The Natural’ for my money is one of the best sports fantasies ever made and I imagine it will remain that way until the sun refuses to shine.

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