The Natural ★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

It pains me to say it, but the truth of the matter is that The Natural is not a particularly good movie. The prologue is solid, and if the story ended before the "16 Years Later" title card, it would be one of the most captivating short films ever made. However, it does keep going and what follows is a gluttony of contrivances, paper thin characters, and a series of ridiculously over the top heroics. Of course Roy Hobbs will literally smack the cover off a ball in his first at-bat. (Incidentally, I've done this. Never mind that the ball had sat outside and absorbed rain overnight.)

There are two chief problems with The Natural. One is that it's fraught with plot holes because everything that happens in the story happens either because the next thing that happens needs it to have happened, or because it's "cool". Most of these things are rooted in the notion of sports superstitions, but the jokes wear thin and too much of the melodrama treats such things seriously, such as Memo being some kind of cooler on Roy, and Iris restoring him to his heroic self simply by being in eye sight of the guy.

Take, for instance, Roy Hobbs appearing at the major league New York Knights. He was on a semi-pro team for two weeks, during which time he impressed the Knights scout enough to land a contract. But during those two weeks, he also apparently managed to do nothing to attract the attention of literally any other human being on the planet? No local paper reported him doing superhuman things with the bat? I don't buy it. No matter how much of a backwater town a semi-pro league in 1939 was, someone saw him do something of note.

Speaking of 1939: After Roy finally gets into the lineup, one of the broadcasters refers to him as "a mid-season pickup". It's unclear just what the time frame of the movie is, but there's no way that the Knights lose pretty much the entire first half of their season and mathematically force a tie-breaker for the pennant in that short time. And remember: Roy was with the team for an indeterminate time before Pop ever let him play.

There are plenty of other such storytelling problems, but they're trumped by the other key shortcoming of the film: There's no one in the entire movie worth caring about. Even Roy himself is only as likable as Redford. He refuses to talk about himself, which is supposed to establish an air of mystique but instead just makes him annoying since we saw what happened. If we can know, why can't anyone else? And if it's so terribly personal and special, why open with it? Why not save it until he finally tells Iris, and then show it to us in flashback? Roy's relationships are all simplistic; Memo is the succubus, Iris the suffering angel.

Even Randy Newman's score is problematic. The hero music is admittedly nice, but we hear it in full force too early, too often. There's no evolution, meaning that when the time comes to celebrate the iconic blast that for some ridiculous reason causes all the lights to blow, we're hearing more of what we already heard for lesser moments. The rest of the music is nice, though. It's a shame it's interrupted so often by Wonderboy.

The Natural Re-Ranked on My Flickchart (#681/1597)

The Natural < Igor --> #800
The Natural > Edward Scissorhands --> #800
The Natural < Tango & Cash --> #1000
The Natural < The Dark Crystal --> #1099
The Natural > Stan Lee's Mutants, Monsters & Marvels --> #1099
The Natural > Killer's Kiss --> #1099
The Natural < Fires of Kuwait --> #1112
The Natural > Copy Shop --> #1112
The Natural > The Russia House --> #1112
The Natural < $5 a Day --> #1113

The Natural was re-ranked on my Flickchart to #1113/1597