The Natural is widely heralded as the best baseball movie of all time. I’ve seen it. It’s not. It’s a very good baseball movie, worthy of being on a Top Five list, but it has too many flaws to be the best. Robert Redford stars as Roy Hobbs, an athlete who simply wants to be the best baseball player who ever lived. Barry Levinson directs this adaptation of Bernard Malamud’s novel and makes a few changes (like a whole different ending).
Roy Hobbs is on the cusp of being a professional baseball player, but things go south when he gets shot in the stomach by a crazy lady and almost dies. 16 years later, Hobbs becomes a 35-year-old rookie for the fictional New York Knights. That’s a red flag right there. You can’t be the best baseball movie if your main character doesn’t even play for a real team.
In the beginning of the movie, a young Roy Hobbs watches his dad die of a heart attack by a tree. Then lightening strikes the tree and splits it and Roy makes a bat from the wood of his father’s death tree. Somehow this makes it a lucky bat, and Roy uses it to become a fierce homerun hitter and become the spark plug that revitalizes his losing team and makes them a contender for the pennant.
Of course there’s lots of stuff that happens. Roy must choose between a shady seductress (Kim Basinger) or rekindling a relationship with his ex-girlfriend (Glenn Close). Spoiler alert: he choses Glenn Close. I don’t know why. Kim Basinger’s character might have been slightly evil and murderous, but she still looks like Kim Basinger. Glenn Close looks like a man. And she has a man’s name. It makes you think.
I read some review where they say that this movie avoids clichés. That’s bullshit. The whole damn movie is a cliché. The new guy with talent has to earn the respect of his coach and teammates. He gets a chance to play and makes the most of it. Everything is going great and then something happens and things aren’t going so great. But he still finds the courage and strength to play in one more game. And then he hits a gamewinning homerun and is hailed as a hero. And then he finds satisfaction outside of the stadium with his family.
This is a good baseball movie. But it’s not the best. Bull Durham is better. Major League is better. A League of Their Own is better. The Sandlot is better. Even Little Big League is better. At least that movie had plays and situations and trivia. And real baseball teams.
Critically Rated at 14/17
Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young