Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 1989. Gordon Company. Screenplay by Phil Alden Robinson, based on the book by W.P. Kinsella. Cinematography by John Lindley. Produced by Charles Gordon, Lawrence Gordon. Music by James Horner. Production Design by Dennis Gassner. Costume Design by Linda M. Bass. Film Editing by Ian Crafford. Academy Awards 1989.
Once a rebellious child of late-sixties counterculture, Kevin Costner is now the proud owner of an Iowa farm with wife Amy Madigan and daughter Gaby Hoffmann, walking through his fields one night when a voice from nowhere (actually Ed Harris) tells him to build a baseball diamond in his backyard. Costner obliges, risking his financial stability, and upon completing the project witnesses the entire 1919-era Chicago White Sox team led by Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta) appear out of thin air to play baseball in his field. The ghost voice isn’t done making requests, however, sending Costner on a cross country search for a once radical author (James Earl Jones) turned passive recluse, whom he brings home to witness his miracle while his brother in law (Timothy Busfield) has papers ready to take over the struggling farm (it’s hard to sell crops when you’ve put a baseball diamond where the corn should grow). Sweet, sincere and wholly ridiculous, this film begins with capricious charm, has a wonderful second act that is a delight to watch (Costner’s adventures in the east are terrific) and then gets painfully messy in its shamelessly manipulative closing. The whole thing is a great way to let men cry without shame, making it the perfect selection for the kind of viewer who thinks that that actually matters, while the subtle but unnecessary jab at the flower power generation (sorry I was protesting instead of behaving like my capitalist father, let’s play catch and fix it all) makes for the kind of middle-class hogwash that only the eigthies could have stomached. Costner is the definition of easy charm in the lead, though believing him as the kind of guy who spent his youth at Woodstock is impossible (not to mention illogical given that they do a poor job of making the timing make sense).