Directed by Robert Redford, starring Will Smith, Matt Damon, Charlize Theron, Bruce McGill and Joel Gretsch
Rannulph Junuh (Damon) is the best golfer in the state of Georgia, but he returns home from WWI a broken man. Haunted by the war he hides from the world, quitting golf and becoming a drunk. His shot at redemption comes when his ex-girlfriend Adele Invergordon (Theron) inherits her father's struggling golf course. In an attempt to revive the depression hit course, she stages a prestigious golf tournament with Junuh persuaded to represent the local people against the two greatest golfers of the era: Bobby Jones (Gretsch) and Walter Hagen (McGill). But Junuh has lost his touch and enlists the help of mystical caddie Bagger Vance (Smith) to help him find his "authentic swing".
You would imagine that all this couldn't be as bad as it sounds with Robert Redford (Ordinary People, Quiz Show) at the helm, but strangely it is. Redford appears ill at ease with the spiritual elements of the film, never sure how much force of clarity to use in portraying the film's fantastical elements. As the title suggests, the film plays as a form of winsome mythology and is ultimately so light and fluffy it just floats away from your memory.
It is interesting to note that Morgan Freeman was initially cast in the title role, and he would surely have been more suited to the part than Smith. They could even have called it 'Teaching Mr Daisy to Drive'. While Smith is competent it's clear he has been hopelessly miscast, and you're waiting for him to start dispensing wisecracks, rather than sagely Zen-like advice. The fact that we know nothing about his character is supposed to make him mysterious, but it's just annoying. Equally so, Theron drives the film for the first half-hour, before being relegated to a typical jilted girlfriend role. So, while the film is beautifully shot, it still fails to focus on and develop any of its characters to a satisfying degree.
The only driving (sorry) narrative in the film is the central golf game, and that will only grab your attention if you are a golf fan. If you are then you will probably agree with Redford's sickly sweet philosophising about heaven being a golf course and so on, but if you don't know your woods from your wedges this nothing more than a below par fable.