Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Say it ain't so, Joe (part 3)


Well the battle for best Baseball movie comes down to Bull Durham and The Natural. Bull Durham is probably the best look at the life of a minor league baseball team. It included the prototypical life long minor leaguer and the young star on the rise played equally well by the team of Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins. Kevin Costner seemingly lives to star in baseball movies and he does a great job here. He looks, talks and hits like a baseball player. Robbins isn't as convincing as an athlete, but he's okay. The love interest is played by Susan Sarandon and she's also fantastic. Bull Durham is funny, entertaining and really about as successful at weaving baseball into the story as any movie has been.

The Natural is quite the opposite of Bull Durham. Where Bull Durham tries to stick as close to reality as possible, The Natural is pure fantasy. Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs puts on the greatest hitting display in the history of baseball movies. I think he hits 1 double, 1 triple and about 40 home runs. He definitely looks the part of a baseball player. The actual baseball is okay but it's not really supposed to be realistic. It's a fantasy pure and simple. From the player dying after crashing through the wall to lightning striking when Roy hits a home run. Kim Basinger, Glen Close and Barbara Hershey play the love interests in the movie and it's all very symbolic. The good girl wears white and the bad girls wear black. Wilford Brimley and Richard Farnsworth are also fantastic as the manager and coach looking for one last shot at glory.

So there you have it. Reality vs. Fantasy, Costner vs Redford, Crash vs Roy, The Bulls vs. The Knights. It really is a hard pick but I'm going to have to go with The Natural. Bull Durham does a better job of showing us what Baseball actually is, but The Natural shows us what we wish that it would be. The Natural plays much more to the mythology of baseball, the magic of baseball, if you will. And when Roy Hobbs is laid up in the hospital and turns to Glen Close and says, "God, I love Baseball", it is without a doubt my favorite moment in any baseball film. I think there's something in the film that captures the essence of why I fell in love with the game, and why throughout the strikes, drug scandals, and other mishaps, I still believe that it's the greatest game every invented.

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