Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Field of Dreams (1989, Movie Review)

       If you’ve looked though my Blog Site you may have noticed a lack posts regarding sports movies. Well, personally I’m just not a sports guy and there are only a handful of sports themed movies that I’ve ever really loved. I just feel that if you’ve seen one sports movie you’ve seen them all, and their conventions can get a pinch repetitive. I don’t have any animosity toured the subject, it’s just not for me. Then every once in a while you get a film like the 1989 fantasy drama “Field of Dreams”, which is undeniably a Baseball movie, but completely devoid of any typical sports movie clichés, offering an experience that’s unique, simplistic and very touching. Based on the Novel “Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa”, “Field of Dreams” is a modern fairy tale that has something special to offer to viewers ... whether their sports fans or not.  

       Our movie begins with some back-story of the life of Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella who’s played by Kevin Costner. Basically, this guy was a prodigy of the 1960’s, loves baseball and had a pretty stable relation with his father, at least until he left the family and started one of his own. Now in present day, this farmer finds himself hearing a mysterious voice saying “If you build it, he will come!” At first the “Voice” makes no sense to him, but soon he discovers that if he were to build a Baseball stadium in his corn field, it would call upon the spirit of his greatest Baseball idle, the disgraced Shoeless Joe Jackson. Sure enough, Ray spends a fortune on the construction of a Baseball field right in his corn field, and sure enough it does bring back the deceased Baseball player, but it doesn’t stop there. Soon, several other deceased Baseball players come out of the wood works, or corn field in this case, as they’ve all had short comings that kept them from their dream. Some Baseball players retired, taking up other professions while others were banned from the game as a result of the 1919 scandal. Now in Ray’s baseball field, these lost souls get the chance to live their dreams. Meanwhile, Ray’s mysterious voice begins asking for further requests, revolving around the lives of other people, some of whom are dead and others who have lost hope.

        It’s a very simple premise, and the simplicity of the story just adds to the wonder and charm of the film. Think of it like an episode of “The Twilight Zone”, except very heartfelt and leaving you feeling warm and cheerful inside. There’s never any strait forward explanation as to why these magical oddities happen in the film, and the characters themselves while very confused don’t ask to many questions either, they just go with flow. There’s a statement made by Ray that he was probably chosen to build the baseball field as an act of penance for something unforgivable he did to his father. As you’d expect, this all pays off and leads to a somewhat predictable but very wholesome ending. I’ve never been a huge fan of Kevin Costner but he does a respectable job in the role of Ray Kinsella, but even at his best, he’s admittedly over shadowed by the supporting cast.

       His wife Annie played by Amy Madigan is awesome, she’s full of energy, very supportive and she doesn’t shy away from standing up for what she believes in, and by that I mean loudly speaking her mind to a large group of bigots. Enter author Terence Mann played by the always awesome James Earl Jones, who’s retired from writing novels and has been reduced to a grumpy old miser. There’s a subplot in which Ray seeks him out and convinces Terence to take up his writing pin again which renews the authors faith in own dreams. This is easily my favorite character in the movie, and James Earl Jones steals the show with every scene his in. He’s funny in his stubborn attitude, but he’s also very humble and sincere as he conveys his words of wisdom to Ray and it’s just a real joy watching this grumpy old hermit come out of his shell. His introduction scene is especially funny, and his closing monologue near the end of the film is nothing short of sensational. Burt Lancaster also makes a noteworthy appearance as Doc Graham, a man who never got to see his sports dream come true as he left Baseball to pursue a carrier in medicine. To be honest, most of these supporting characters actually have more captivating stories then our main hero.

      The late James Horner composed the music for the film, and boy dose he nail the tone and feel of this track. It has a quiet, almost ghostly quality that creates an atmosphere that reflects off of the emotional tones in the film beautifully. Now, the movie is very sentimental, you can even argue that it’s overly sentimental, but personally I think it’s done in just the right way. The films emotional moments balance hand in hand with the simplicity of the story and its magical atmosphere. It’s actually a very inspiring film that can affect a wide range of people, not just die hard baseball players. It’s the films relatable themes of lamenting missed opportunities and a driving passion to pursue your dreams that give the movie substance, and there’s even a subtle enfaces on family bonding, particularly between father and son, which is done very well.

      I often think of this movie as a classic modern fairly tail. It may be sports themed and even has that same look and feel of a classic sports movie, but it’s still a fantasy and it’s an experience that’s just plain good for the heart. If you’re like me and don’t care for baseball or sports in general, I still highly recommend this movie. It’s just a very humble film that can put you in a good mood when it’s over, and while I freely admit it’s not one of the absolute greatest movies I’ve ever seen, it’s still worth experiencing more than once. If you’re someone who feels they were never able to fulfill a dream, this film might just raise your spirit and cheerfully encourage you to go the distance. 

                                                       I give “Field of Dreams” 4 stars out of 5.               

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