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Nothing was going to stop Roy Hobbs from fulfilling his boyhood dream of baseball super-stardom. Robert Redford stars in this inspiring fable that begins when 14-year-old Hobbs (Redford) fashions a powerful bat from a fallen oak tree. He soon impresses major league scouts with his ability, fixing his extraordinary talent in the mind of sportswriter Max Mercy (Robert Duvall), who eventually becomes instrumental in Hobb's career. But a meeting with a mysterious woman shatters his dream. Years pass and an older Hobbs reappears as a rookie from The New York Knights. Overcoming physical pain and defying those who have a stake in seeing the Knights lose, Hobbs, with his boyhood bat, has his chanceto lead the Knights to the pennant and to finally fulfill his dream.
From the sun-dappled heartland, a young man (Robert Redford, in soft lighting) emerges as maybe the best baseball player anybody's ever seen. On his way to the majors, he is cut down by an enigmatic black widow (Barbara Hershey) and vanishes for many years. When he reemerges, a silent mystery, he lands a spot with the New York team and begins tearing up the league--he's still the natural. Fans of the Bernard Malamud novel will be dismayed at the pure mythical hokum of this film, but baseball fanatics have been known to watch and rewatch this one; after all, it's constructed as a kind of shrine to the national pastime. Barry Levinson (Rain Man) directs the movie with an unabashed devotion to the game, although the film could use more of the realities of chewing tobacco and pine tar. Redford is fine, and Kim Basinger and Oscar-nominated Glenn Close are effective as the women in his life. The crowning touch is the soaring, extraordinary music by Randy Newman, the singer-songwriter turned orchestral composer. --Robert Horton
Stills from The Natural (Click for larger image)
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