A baseball classic given the All-Star treatment - a Grand Sl
Matthew J. Gallagher | Wilton, Connecticut United States | 04/04/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
""There goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was to play this game." For admirers of the original theatrical and, later, DVD version, of "The Natural" this is obviously A MUST. The story of Roy Hobbs, a great young talent in the Ted Williams mode (they even share the same number - 9), struck down in his prime, and then, like a phoenix, reborn into athletic glory, is one of the classic American stories of all time, based on the fine novel by Bernard Malamud. This new "Director's Cut" version is like revisiting a great fairy tale from childhood and being given more - and often longer - scenes with some of your favorite characters. Director Barry Levinson explains, in a video introduction to the film, the reasons for this new edition: how the original film was somewhat rushed into theatres and how he and his editor (and others) wanted a much different first act to the film. And here it is: the new footage deepens and darkens and gradually brightens the film into a much more satisfying experience and still does not diminish the impact of the original at all. In a word, PERFECT. The musical score, by the great Randy Newman, perhaps a little too insistent in the original film, cueing us to how we should feel, sneaks up on you more in this version and makes all the wonderful moments in the film that come later that much more moving. Also, Robert Redford's performance as Roy Hobbs is immeasurably helped here: the new footage (often original scenes with more footage added), even certain quick cuts, make for a more layered, textured performance that gives us greater insights into this troubled, but noble character - and show how a once, great, guileless young ballplayer still exists inside the older, careworn, but still talented, man he has become. There are beautiful moments restored here - often wordless - and some original scenes have been edited, so that even though there is additional footage, the new version only runs about six minutes longer than the original. Personally, I felt all the performances benefited from the new version - Robert Duvall, Kim Basinger, Darren McGavin, Glenn Close, Wilford Brimley, Richard Farnsworth, all doing splendid work here. And though my only quibble with the film was - and still is - the somewhat stilted staging of some of the scenes (I would have liked to have seen more reactions from the ballplayers and coaches during games - sometimes they just look blank even when watching something exciting going on), this is clearly a TRUE classic - and the new version will only add to its glory. The additional special features include a wealth of information about the making of the film, and a splendid featurette on "The Mythology of The Natural." Clearly this is why this film endures - and will for the next 100 years. It has a timeless feel, from the perfect performances, the superb direction, the obvious care that was taken in the music, costumes, sets (the fantastic scenes in the various ballparks), and, finally, to the story itself, so beautifully articulated by Glenn Close's character later in the story: "I believe we have two lives: the one we learn with, and the one we live with after that." This new DVD "Director's Cut" version drives this theme home with the precision of one of Roy Hobbs's mammoth home runs. It is a darker, more textured, but ultimately more illuminating experience (and perhaps even more moving than the original version) - and one of Barry Levinson's finest achievements. I wish they had re-released it on the big screen first. But here it is in a beautifully packaged DVD (with a great, old-fashioned cover), worth every penny, and then some. A grand slam!"
NOT JUST BASEBALL- A LESSON IN LIFE
L. Shirley | fountain valley, ca United States | 09/26/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Natural is a film I could watch over and over, which is why I bought this DVD. My Tape was worn out. This is a story for the whole family. If you've never seen it and you dont like baseball, dont let that stop you. This is a magical story.
Roy Hobbs is a farm boy with a gift for pitching. But as his Dad tells him "It's not enough". He gets a chance to try out with the Chicago Cubs, so He leaves his best girl with a promise of marriage and heads off for the big city. He meets a beautiful temptress on the train and being young and naive lets temptation lead him astray.
Because of the incident with the woman his baseball career was put on hold for 16 years, until at 36 he gets a chance to play for the Majors. The manager of this loosing"dead from the neck up" team is reculant to put this old rookie in, but his assistant goes to bat for Roy (excuse the pun) and he finally gets his shot.
We watch as Roy has a great season, goes into a slump, gets mixed up with the wrong woman again and tries to save the team for the manager from the corrupt owner and his partners.
His past comes back in 2 forms, first his girl is now living in Chicago, and has brought him good luck, it is a magical moment in the movie when he is in a slump and she stands in the bleachers looking like an Angel, and his energy is renewed, and second he is being blackmailed about the unfortunate incident 16 years earlier.
After all these years though Roy has never lost his honor, his values, or his love for the game. He also learns that wanting to be "the best there ever was" is not as important as doing the best you can.
The Cast is fabulous in their rolls, you have Robert Redford, Glenn Close, Wilfred Brimley, Kim Basinger, Robert Duvall, Barabra Hershey, Joe Don Baker, Robert Prosky and the late great Richard Farnsworth. No more needs to be said there!
The DVD itself is a must have. I was reluctant to buy it at first because it was only 4.0 and 2 channel sound but this is not a film where you need to have dinosaur steps shaking your water glasses. The crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, the musical score is all great. It is in Widescreen and the cinematography is wonderful. Usually the "Extras" is not what impresses me when I buy a DVD but this one has a not to be missed 45 commentary from Cal Ripken Jr. that's as poignant as the story itself. There is also included in the documentary Director Barry Levinson"s views
By the way you will also love the ending of the story!
Great, but why fix something that ain't broke?
Michael Dahlin | Portland, OR USA | 04/10/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I loved the Natural when it came out in 1984. The mythical quality of the story, terrific acting by a perfect cast, great editing, and great direction made this film one of my all time favorite sports movies.
So this year a new dvd version is being released that is being called the Director's cut. Apparently there are 20 minutes of new footage added in, but the editing results in a film that is only 6 minutes longer than the original. The chief difference between the two versions is that the backstory is relayed primarily through flashback from the "present", as Roy Hobbs returns to his childhood home after 16 years away. He retrieves "Wonder Boy", then goes to New York to start his career with the NY Knights.
The new version works okay, but I frankly preferred the original. I preferred its slightly more deliberate pacing, and I don't think the new scenes (primarily extended versions of already existing scenes) added any real value or perspective. Indeed, one scene in which Memo travels to meet Roy on the road actually detracted from the cohesion of the story.
Bottom line: if you loved the original, you'll like this one. It's still basically the same film. I just don't think it needed any tinkering."
Disappointing, inferior "Director's Cut"
J. C. Anderson | Seattle, WA. | 01/12/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"When I was first made aware of this new "Director's Cut" of The Natural, I wanted to rent it before deciding whether to buy it or not. Unable to find it for rent, I bought it. Having watched it twice (alternately with the original theatrical version DVD), I will probably toss it.
Director's Cut? Even the director, Barry Levinson, concedes in the introduction to this new version that it is not meant to replace or be better than the original theatrical version. It's merely an intriguing chance to see the movie edited to match his original vision more closely (made impossible in 1984 by post production time constraints). He makes no judgment that his original vision was better. For me, this cut is quite inferior.
Not only were 15 minutes of footage added, but 9 minutes were deleted. In the original version, the opening act (before Roy returns to the game after 16 years) ran 20 minutes. In the new version, despite a lot of added material, it runs 17 minutes. The relaxed, natural pace of the original sequence is now full of somewhat abrupt, quick edits. Gone also are some beautiful shots, such as the young Roy and Iris running towards each other at night across the horizon of a field. Gone are moments of character development, such as The Whammer's wisecrack on the train, "Oh, first Pete and now Repeat?"
And much later in the film, one added scene derails a major theme. Iris is a positive influence, and Roy excels in the game under that influence. Memo is a negative influence, and under her spell Roy fails. Yet in this new verson of the film, Roy returns to New York after several highly successful games (under Iris' influence) on the road, and then a scene has been added where Memo welcomes him home in a hotel lobby and gets cozy with him in a phone booth. In the following scenes, Roy continues his successful run! It makes no sense. In the original version, his success ended as soon as he reunited with Memo at the welcome home party. In fact, the addition of the phone booth scene results in her welcoming him home twice, which is somewhat odd.
On the positive side, the new 5.1 sound is very nice most of the time, but sound effects that were subtle in the original film have been amped up at times to the point of being distracting. Originally, the two gunshots sounded appropriate to the rooms in which they happened. They now sound like recordings of shots in an echo chamber, edited into the film. Still, I have to say I loved the enhanced sounds of thunder throughout the movie.
The second disc of Special Features has some interesting stuff on it. So I'll keep the Special Features disc, put it with my DVD of the original theatrical version, and toss the so-called Director's Cut disc. But I will miss those great thunder sounds."