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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Play Ball!

The Natural (1984) on IMDb

Plot Overview

A young farm boy Roy Hobbs (Paul Sullivan Jr. & Mark Atienza) plays catch with his father Ed Hobbs (Alan Fudge.) The kid's got talent, but his dad cautions him, “You've got a gift Roy … but it's not enough. You've got to develop yourself. If you rely too much on your own gift … then … you'll fail. You need confidence and concentration, a clear mind and the ability to see with the heart; that's real strength. Confidence and concentration: you got those, you don't need much else.”

His dad passes away. With hand tools Roy fashions himself a special bat—he dubs it Wonder­boy—from a lightning-struck oak tree in his yard. He takes it in a carrying case on the train (“Oh, God, I've never been on a train before”) as he heads to a try­out (“It's just a trial”) with the Chicago Cubs. First he bids an affectionate fare­well to his long­time sweet­heart Iris Gaines (Glenn Close), telling her, “I want you to marry me. I'll send for you.”

On the train he overhears sports journalist Max Mercy (Robert Duvall) who is investigating some­one's systematic shooting of sports stars. He is following a famous base­ball hitter, the Whammer (Joe Don Baker). Roy hits on a presentable young lady Harriet Bird (Barbara Hershery) who is enamored of sports (“I love contests of skill.”) At a whistle stop carnival Roy beats the Whammer in an impromptu challenge. The Whammer's stalker consequently shifts focus from him to Roy and shoots him (“I never saw it coming.”) That was, “the beginning of a lot of mistakes. I lost my confidence and there was no going back. Some mistakes we never stop paying for.”

APPROVEDWe next see a somewhat weathered Roy Hobbs having been signed up for the New York Knights by a scout with a mandate to find some­one who's got talent. An “aged rookie” is not what jinxed manager Pop Fisher (Wilford Brimley) is looking for. Roy, how­ever, thinks he's got what it takes. He tells bench coach Red Blow (Richard Farns­worth), “Red, it took me sixteen years to get here. You play me, and I'll give ya the best I got.” A lot of drama follows.


There is a set of sentiments that plays out in films from time to time—Holly­wood recycles the same themes—most elegantly expressed in a well known poem—actu­ally a psalm—a variation of it played out in the movie. Let's start with the poem:

Psalm 127 Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep. Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

This pictures a man who is a carpenter by day and moonlights as a night watch­man. He's got his priorities all wrong; or at least they aren't godly. Rather than be a work­a­holic, he should spend time with his wife at home, make some babies, and they'll grow up to leave a mark on the world. And the man will himself gain confi­dence. At least that's God's design.

Roy in the movie tries to build confidence by making a special bat, and that works to some degree—the lightning patch is worn by the team when they're on a roll. Yes, but unless God gives the oak enough strength to with­stand Roy's wicked swing, it will do him no good. And there's the matter of safety. When Roy gets shot out of the blue by a stalker, there goes his career. He might do better at building the confidence his old man touted by keeping his promise to look up his old sweet­heart Iris who's now been attending his games, along with what looks to be her fifteen-year-old son.

Production Values

This baseball flick, “” (1984) was directed by Barry Levin­son. It was written by Bernard Malamud (novel) and Roger Towne (screen­play.) It stars Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, and Glenn Close. The acting (excepting Bassinger) is very good, some­times even noteworthy.

It has a rating of PG. It was filmed at All-High Stadium, Buffalo, New York, USA. The main dramatic point of a little ball disappearing over the horizon does not lend itself to pictorial representation on the big screen, but here they were able to work with it to give the movie audience spontaneous delight. The opposing team's colors were always red to contrast with the Knights' black. A great deal of liberty was taken with a ball game's pacing to make it amenable to the movies.

The cinematography and historical realism are credible in a movie magic kind of way. Soft focus was employed to make Robert Redford as Roy look suitably young for his base­ball beginnings. The main character, Roy Hobbs, is evidently based on real life Eddie Waitkus, Philly first baseman who was shot in 1949 but made a come­back in 1950.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

I grew up in Pittsburgh at a memorable time when the Pirates played in the World Series. The last game the Knights played in this movie was against the Pitts­burgh Pirates, but it didn't seem real enough for me to root for my home team. It was a movie reenactment with sympathies woven for the movie under­dogs. I could enjoy it as a movie with­out confusing it with reality. It does a good job of that.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action flick. Suitability for children: Suitable for children with guidance. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good for Groups. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Four stars out of five.