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Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius

Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius

Directed by Rowdy Herrington. Starring Jim Caviezel, Claire Forlani, Jeremy Northam, Malcolm McDowell, Connie Ray, Brett Rice, Aidan Quinn. (2004, PG, 122 min.)

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 30, 2004

If, like me, all you know about the early years of golf in America you learned from The Legend of Bagger Vance, then this new independently financed biopic about the only person to have ever won the sport’s four-tournament grand slam, will be educational. We get to observe Jones from his early childhood through to his adulthood, when, after achieving his grand-slam goal, he retires from playing golf and founds the Augusta National course in Georgia. The story is a conventional film biography, the kind that starts to border on hagiography – which is only appropriate, as its leading man Jim Caviezel was last seen playing Jesus Christ in Mel Gibson’s Bible story. Here he’s traded in his blood-soaked robe and sandals for the knickers and cleats worn in the early decades of the 20th century. The story of Jones’ career plods along, beginning with his sickly childhood, the discovery of his natural aptitude for golf, the challenge he faces in learning to curb his temper on the golf course, and his family life. It seems nothing is left out, and the movie makes us begin to feel as though we’ve witnessed every swing the man ever swung. The shots of the courses are lovely, and I imagine the sight will get juices flowing among real golfers. Caviezel is decent in the role but brings little extra to the table, although Jeremy Northam as professional golfer Walter Hagen and Malcolm McDowell as sportswriter O.B. Keeler appear to be having a fine time with their roles. One might have expected more mano-a-mano moments from Road House director Rowdy Herrington, but Bobby Jones is perfectly genteel all the way through. It’ll probably delight the golf junkies who presumably funded this project, but their green is not enough to make the movie’s greens light up the screen.

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