At some point, there were a bunch of studio executives in a room that decided it would be okay to have a man in his mid-forties play a 19 year old for the first twenty minutes of this film. Rather than hire a young actor to take this role on, they allowed a 47-48 year old Robert Redford play 30 years younger than his age. I don’t mean to be ageist… but it was a bit ridiculous.
Also, what is it with the 1980s and American cinema churning out all these baseball films. I believe that The Natural might well be the last one, but I think I’ve had this conversation with myself before and we’ve ended up with this long film based on a book that is loosely based on a man whose baseball career was delayed by 15 years because he was shot by a woman with some sort of mental illness.
If you have seen the classic baseball episode of The Simpsons, you will already know some of the key visuals from The Natural – namely the making of a bat from tree struck by lightning and the final home run where a mixture of a ball impact and faulty wiring results in a spectacular pyrotechnic display that would probably set the stadium on fire.
As films go it’s fine – Robert Redford is a bit too stuffy for the role and, by what I have read about in some reviews online, it gives the film a Hollywood ending where it should have been something a bit more nuanced. Knowing this and how much the final fireworks display was a tad overkill, I am now interested in the book as I want to see how this could have been done better or, at least, was not made as the first film by a new off-shoot production company.
What makes this film decent enough to watch is the supporting cast. Do I think this was a film that should have received acting nominations during the 1984 awards season, probably not, but they do so much heavy lifting that I cannot begrudge them some form of recognition. Still though, this film should just not be on this list. We don’t so many baseball movies on this list, we just don’t.