The Natural

The Natural (1984)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Robert Redford, Glenn Close
Extras: Documentary, Theatrical Trailer, Talent Files, Production Notes, Bonus Trailers

A few quick notes before we proceed. I am not that fond of Robert Redford, Barry Levinson, or watching baseball. Having said all of that, whenever I watch ’The Natural’, I’m newly amazed at how much I admire the film. The film is a shining example of how a great story, combined with superb artistry, can create a masterpiece.

As ’The Natural’ opens, we meet young Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford). Roy is a remarkable baseball player, who’s gifts for hitting and throwing are amazing. Roy gets a tryout with the Chicago Cubs, and the night before he is to leave, he pledges his love to Iris (Glenn Close). On the train-trip to Chicago, Roy is able to prove his talent against ’The Whammer’ (Joe Don Baker) (who is a thinly veiled allusion to Babe Ruth). But, temptation leads Roy down a dangerous path and a tragedy occurs. Sixteen years later, Roy emerges seemingly from nowhere, and begins to play for the ailing New York Knights, much to the chagrin of manager Pop Fisher (Wilford Brimley). Hobbs soon proves himself to be a star player, and the Knights surge to the top. However, temptation rears its ugly head again, this time in the form of the beautiful Memo (Kim Basinger). The only thing that can save Roy is the faithfulness of a woman such as Iris. As the season winds to a finale, Roy is pulled in many different directions, and reporter Max Mercy (Robert Duvall) is determined to learn where Hobbs was for 16 years.

To put it quite simply, ’The Natural’ is a beautiful film. Director Barry Levinson allows the story to unwind at its own pace, but the tale is woven so skillfully that the movie never seems slow. Levinson also lets the pictures tell the story and there are several sequences that are without dialogue. The combination of the sports film, the romance, and the mythical hero comes together wonderfully. The cast is superb, with Redford giving a very subtle, yet realistic performance.

As it’s the visuals and Randy Newman’s score which drive ’The Natural’, the film is perfectly suited for DVD. The movie is presented in an anamorphic widescreen and letterboxed at 1.85:1. The image is remarkably clear, given the film’s age. The picture is crisp and shows only a smattering of grain. The colors are true, but the image does seem a bit washed out at times. There are no obvious defects from the source print, nor are there any artifacting issues. On the other hand, the audio is somewhat of a problem. The DVD features a Dolby Digital 4.0 track and a 2-channel surround track. I couldn’t find that much of a difference between the two soundtracks. One problem, which occurred on both, was that the music overpowered the dialogue, so I was constantly adjusting the volume.

’The Natural’ DVD features a newly made documentary entitled ’The Heart of The Natural’, which focuses on the realities of the film. This 45-minute features offers interviews with director Barry Levinson and baseball great Cal Ripken, Jr. This is a wonderful look at the life of a professional athlete and how Hollywood treats it. The theatrical trailer for ’The Natual’ is featured, as are trailers for ’Bugsy’ and ’The Way We Were’. We also have the usual talent files and there are production notes included in the DVD package.