The Natural (1984)
April 11, 2018 6:39 PM - Subscribe

An unknown comes out of seemingly nowhere to become a legendary baseball player with almost divine talent.

NYTimes: When a literary work of such particular and long-lived appeal is turned into a movie, one must assume that the adapters wanted not only to preserve but, possibly, also to illuminate it.

Instead, Roger Towne and Phil Dusenberry, who wrote the screenplay, and Barry Levinson, the director, seem to have taken it upon themselves to straighten out Mr. Malamud's fable, to correct the flaws he overlooked. They supply explanations that the novel resolutely avoided, reshape characters for dramatic convenience and, strangest of all, they transform something dark and open- ended - truly fabulous - into something eccentrically sentimental.

All of this might be justified if the film then succeeded on its own as something else. However, this ''Natural'' may well baffle people who come upon the remains of its story for the first time and wonder what Mr. Malamud was up to.

AV Club: It would be a gigantic understatement to say that Barry Levinson's 1984 film version compromises the original ending, given that it concludes with perhaps the most spectacularly triumphant swing in movie history. And yet as much as it betrays the tragic underpinnings of Malamud's story, the phony ending remains the film's most powerful sequence, earning an ironic place in baseball's iconography.

Roger Ebert: "The Natural" gives every sign of a story that's been seriously meddled with. Redford has been placed so firmly in the foreground that the prime consideration is to show him in a noble light. The people in his life -- baseball players, mistresses, gamblers, crooks, sportswriters -- seem grateful to share the frame with him. In case we miss the point, Redford is consistently backlit to turn his golden hair into a saintly halo.

"The Natural" could have been a decent movie. One reason that it is not: Of all its characters, the only one we don't want to know more about is Roy Hobbs.


Go pick me out a winner, Bobby

The Natural: Best or Worst Sports Movie Ever?

When Bernard Malamud saw 'The Natural'

Beyond the Box Office: The Natural (1984)

Major League Murder: The Gruesome True Story That Inspired “The Natural”

A Hero's Ending: Why Robert Redford Didn't Strike Out
posted by MoonOrb (6 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The finale features the Pittsburgh Pirates losing, ergo this movie is terrible.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:16 PM on April 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

This was a phenomenal movie as a kid, as an adult it hasn't aged well at all.

Aside: One of my Dad's favorite shots of all time is the shot when Glenn Close stands up in the bleachers and she's literally haloed by the sun.
posted by Sphinx at 3:55 PM on April 12, 2018

Ebert's review is so silly. This movie is to baseball what Excalibur is to medieval history and while one could go on and on about the lack of verisimilitude in Excalibur ("*snort* *sputter* There must be quite potent manure on the hooves of those horses to cause an instant bloom; perhaps they stepped in the screenplay!! *smugsmirk*"), it's missing the point, and Ebert's attempts to kick this movie's shins end up with him on his ass, IMHO.

Reviewers shouldn't go all in criticizing movies in terms of what they aren't and were never trying to be, or else they'll fail to see what's actually on screen.

To get specific: the home run shot is not "cheap and phony", lol. Imagine writing that. Apparently Ebert has misunderstood this simple ass ending for babies because he doesn't realize the blood is from the Old Wound? Oops, I guess the ending of The Natural is too subtle and complex for Roger Ebert to understand.

The Natural is boring and kind of ridiculous. As I get older, though, and somehow even more bitter, the consideration that The Natural butchered the ending of the book makes it even more legitimate and cathartic to me. The RL haters become just another sneering face in the movie's crowd, and the ending itself is a foul ball hit their direction, obliterating their peanuts, making them throw down and stomp on their old timey hats, another set of jerks who wished too much for the hero's destruction, ruined by the fact that dumb happy endings are actually beautiful and good.
posted by fleacircus at 3:57 PM on April 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

My grandmother loved Robert Redford, movies, and baseball, and she loved The Natural. I don't really have any feelings about the movie that aren't all wrapped up in that. And Randy Newman's theme gives chills every time I hear it.

Baseball story: My sister and I got tickets to the game where there was a ceremony to welcome back Richie Ashburn after his Hall of Fame induction. He walked out from center field to the theme from The Natural, and I burst into tears. I looked at my sister, and she was crying too. We were too young to have ever watched Ashburn play; we just knew that he was my grandmother's favorite player, then that theme did its work.
posted by gladly at 6:51 AM on April 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Not sure how I could have avoided doing this.
posted by fleacircus at 9:58 AM on April 13, 2018

Even though I'm not a baseball-loving eight-year-old anymore, I can only watch it with the eyes of the baseball-loving eight-year-old I used to be. And it's great.

It's not the best baseball movie; Field of Dreams is more interesting and complex, and holds up better to adult viewing. But the ending is a perfect litmus test. I get that not everybody likes baseball, but if you can watch that ending with the home run and the lights and stuff and not appreciate baseball and how magical it can be in a way that other sports just can't be, then maybe we don't have much to talk about, bub.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:03 AM on April 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

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