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The Natural (Director's Cut)
DVD disk
May 1, 2007 By: Quigles
The Natural (Director's Cut) order
Director:
Barry Levinson

Actors:
Robert Redford
Glenn Close
Kim Basinger

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A gifted baseball player with a sordid past gets a second chance for greatness.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Widely considered by many to be one of the best sports movies of all time, THE NATURAL marks for me yet another occasion where I just don't "get it." I can appreciate the film from a technical standpoint, as the acting, cinematography, and overall style of the production are all top-notch. But as for the storytelling, I never found myself remotely invested in the trials and tribulations of this natural athlete (who's more like a demigod than a real person).

There were a few key sequences where I began to understand the so-called wonder of baseball (with the slow-motion batting scenes in particular being fantastic, albeit ridiculous), but aside from that, the movie never grabbed me emotionally. It takes a lot more than majestic baseball sequences to hold my interest - there needs to be a solid story, too. And therein lies the problem. Despite his extraordinary abilities, Redford's character just doesn't make for an interesting protagonist. There's a lot of time spent developing this "amazing" individual, yet he comes across as such a dull guy. Sure, he can whack a baseball into next week, but none of that stuff matters when you're forced to endure his constant women problems and the lingering dilemmas from his ill-fated past. If a little more time and effort was spent developing the other characters, this might not have been a big issue. But as is, all the more interesting faces get the shaft to make time for additional boring subplots involving our unlikely hero. Unlikely, and unfortunate... For viewers like me anyway.
THE EXTRAS
I haven't seen the original cut of THE NATURAL, but as director Barry Levinson states in his video introduction, a lot was changed for this new cut. There's a total 20 minutes of new footage, with a drastically altered first act to the film. However, it runs only 6 minutes longer than the previous version, so there's been almost as much footage removed as there's been added.

As for the special features, this 2-disc set is as close to a definitive release as you could ask for. The featurettes are both interesting and incredibly informative. The only thing missing is a commentary track.

Video Introduction (2:06): Director Barry Levinson briefly goes into detail about how extensively the film was tweaked to match its intended vision.

When Lightning Strikes: Creating The Natural (49:52): This three-part documentary covers the writing of the novel (on which the film is based), the long process that came with adapting the novel for the screen, and the actual making of the film. If you have even a slight interest in how THE NATURAL was made, you should find this set of featurettes very enlightening.

Clubhouse Conversations (15:24): Some of the baseball greats talk about their experiences, and what the sport means to them. Not really about the film, but interesting none-the-less.

A Natural Gunned Down: The Stalking of Eddie Waitkus (17:07): Roy Hobbs, he lead character in THE NATURAL, was partially inspired by Eddie Waitkus, a baseball player that was shot by an obsessed fan. This featurette goes into the history of that person.

Knights in Shining Armor: The Mythology of The Natural (9:18): A cool look at all of the mythological references and themes explored in the film (the most notable of which is how Roy Hobbs parallels King Arthur).

Extra Innings: Featured here are four short segments that detail various things relating to THE NATURAL, including the film's use of slow-motion and more. In total, they come out to less than ten minutes.

The Heart of The Natural (44:04): Cal Ripken, Jr., another baseball great, discusses with director Barry Levinson the film's lasting appeal, various aspects of the lead character, and baseball itself.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
While this movie does display its love of baseball beautifully, Redford's blas character didn't do much to hold my interest (despite the actor's best efforts). Still, lovers of America's pastime are sure to find plenty of enjoyment here. If you're not a sport fanatic, however, don't expect THE NATURAL to convert you. I can't say how much this Director's Cut adds or detracts from the film (see more about this in the extras section), but I can say a lot of worthwhile effort went into making this the definitive DVD edition for all fans. And even though I may not like it too much, I can at least appreciate the magic and wonder it brings to people who do.
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