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May 11, 1984 - Image 8

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1984-05-11

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Friday, May 11, 1984

The Michigan Daily

Page 8

The Natural disaster

By Susan Makuch
E VERYBODY'S into "natural."
You know - natural foods,
natural childbirth, naturally curly. No
additives or preservatives needed in
Well, someone should have told the
producers of The Natural, a new movie
starring Robert Redford, about the
current craze. Maybe they would have
forsaken all the extra sugar they added
to Bernard Malamud's story of a boy
who loves baseball.
Originally a sombre tale of life's
realities, director Barry Levinson
(Diner), screenwriter Roger Towne, and
Redford decided to lighten the story by
focusing upon the sentimental theme of
baseball as a tie between fathers and
The film is didactic and schmaltzy.
Levinson lays everything right in front
of the viewer, there's no room for inter-
pretation. The obvious distinctions
between good and bad seem to be the
only ones made in this film.
Redford portrays a baseball player
with - you guessed it - a natural
ability for the game. He is so natural
that he can hit the hide right off the
baseball. Maybe in a Superman movie,
but not in a film that portends realism.
There is no indication that The Natural
is The Supernatural. Roy Hobbs
(Redford) is just a guy who, like his
father before him, loves the Great
American Pastime: he's not an alien


Robert Redford and Glenn Close (insert) star in 'The Natural' a film reminiscent of Dannon yogurt gone bad.


who can hit home runs at will. Yet he
hits eight homers in one doubleheader.
We're supposed to believe this in-
credible ability because Hobbs uses his
own personal bat, Wonderboy. Wonder-
boy is a bat that young Roy carved from

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a tree damaged bya lightning bolt.
The drama begins with Hobbs'
meteoric rise to baseball stardom. The
only problem with that scenario is that
Hobbs never gets the opportunity to
prove himself in the majors. His career
is abruptly halted by Harriet Bird
(Barbara Hershey), a mysterious
woman who loves the power possessed
by professional athletes. Hobbs does not
return to the game until 16 years later
when he attempts a comeback of sorts
as a 36-year-old rookie.
Hobbs leaves behind Iris (Glenn
Close), his childhood sweetheart, who
does not hear from him during those 16
mysterious years. No mention is made
of her when Roy resurfaces, and she
makes no attempt to reach him
(although she has very good reason to)
once he attains greatness as a New
York Knights slugger.
Roy's sudden rise to fame puts him in
the same company as Memo Paris,
(Kim Basinger), niece of Pop (Wilford
Brimley), the Knights' manager and
girlfriend of the Knight's star player,

Bump Bailey. Because of the predic-
tibility of Towne's script, it's obvious
that Memo and Roy will get together.
The only surprises in The Natural are
those that defy the imagination - i.e.,
how ridiculous will the story get?
When Bump fatally crashes through
the right field fence in pursuit of a long
fly, it seems that this will be as un-
believable as the script will get. But
when his ashes are dropped from an
airplane onto the playing field (before
game time, of course) well, that's the
final straw.
Director Levinson, who did such a
fine job with Diner, totally fails in his
attempts with The Natural. He had
such a well of talent, it's unforgivable
that he wasted it. Redford, of course,
has had many good moments on screen
(The Way We Were, All the
President's Men). He walks through his
role as Roy Hobbs.
Also in this fine case, is Academy
Award-winner Robert Duvall (Tender
Mercies), who is cast aside in the tiny
See SCHMALTZ, Page 11


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