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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius (2004)

Walter Hagen: Can I ask you a question? Why do you play golf?
Bobby Jones: 'Cause I love it. And I want to win.

- Jeremy Northam, Jim Caviezel

Review By: Nate Meyers   
Published: November 30, 2004

Stars: Jim Caviezel, Claire Forlani, Malcolm McDowell
Other Stars: Jeremy Northam, Brett Rice, Connie Ray, Devon Gearhart, Thomas "Bubba" Lewis, Dan Albright, Aidan Quinn, Paul Freeman, Alistair Begg, Elizabeth Omilami, Stephanie Sparks
Director: Rowdy Herrington

MPAA Rating: PG for language
Run Time: 02h:08m:35s
Release Date: November 30, 2004
UPC: 043396085107
Genre: sports


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ C+AB- C+

DVD Review

There's not a single bad scene in Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius, yet the film as a whole is somewhat muted. Indeed the story of a man who has high ideals, lives a life of integrity, and plays golf better than anybody else in the history of the game doesn't scream cinema. There's plenty of inner conflict within Bobby Jones (Jim Caviezel), but why should the audience care?

Perhaps the name Bobby Jones has faded from the American public's memory, but at one time he was all that Tiger Woods is—and more. To this day he remains the only person to have ever won the Grand Slam of golf in a single year, and he did it as an amateur. Director Rowdy Herrington takes a subtle approach to the storytelling here, which is completely in tune with the life of the great Bobby Jones. As a young boy, Bobby (played by Devon Gearhart) is a pale, sickly Atlanta lad who studies the game of golf because he can't play baseball. His father's caddy, Stewart (Alistair Begg), sees a tremendous gift in Bobby as the boy mimics the golf swings of his elders. Eventually Bobby begins to compete and as a teenager (now played by Thomas "Bubba" Lewis) manages to play in the National Amateur Tournament.

Tom Stern impeccably photographs the golf scenes with the wonderful golden glow of "magic hour." The lush fields of golf courses are contrasted by Bobby's ever-growing temper, which manifests itself when he becomes a man (now played by Jim Caviezel). Sports movies have a history of portraying men with tremendous skill and violent tempers, but Bobby Jones managed to keep his anger on the field. The script, penned by Herrington, Bill Pryor, and Tony DePaul, presents a fair portrait of Bobby Jones, but it isn't especially interesting to watch a man who's biggest conflict is that he doesn't realize how great he is at golf.

As the years go by, Bobby tries to avoid the spotlight and settles down with his wife, Mary (Clair Forlani), and lives a modest, middle class life in the heart of Georgia. However, golf is the driving force of this movie. Bobby claims he plays the game because he loves it, but the script and Caviezel's performance don't convince us of that. Certainly his top competitor, the professional Walter Hagen (Jeremy Northam), and journalist friend, O.B. Keeler (Malcolm McDowell), seem to enjoy the game more than Bobby does. The main force behind Bobby Jones, at least in this movie, seems to be his drive to win. There is real potential for solid drama in that obsessive side of Jones, but the movie always takes the easy way out. Any conflict between Jones and his wife receives nothing more than lip service and his rivalry with Hagen never feels intimidating or significant.

Watching this movie, one can't help but wonder if the Jones family's involvement hampered its effect. They had script approval and it is easy to understand that they would want an accurate portrayal of their dad, who was a true role model, but the film could still have conveyed this and been interesting. Herrington's direction of the material is like watching a golf game. You know that it is hard work and done well, but after about 20 minutes you want to change the channel. The lackluster direction isn't helped by James Horner's score, which appears to be nothing more than a re-hash of his Braveheart themes.

The strength of the movie comes from its crew's craftsmanship and cast's performances. Although Caviezel looks too old for playing the college-aged Bobby Jones, he does a fantastic job of nailing down the man's personality (though he never fully sells Bobby's love of the game). Malcolm McDowell gives the film's most inspired performance as the journalist Keeler, breathing life into his scenes with a wonderfully understated piece of work. Even Clair Forlani, who has never done much for a movie other than to serve as eye candy, makes an impressive turn, adopting a convincing accent as well as conveying Mary's innocent Catholic disposition.

Coupled with the nice performances are some rather impressive sets and costumes. Considering what a low budget Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius had, this is a rather impressive accomplishment. The work by the crew manages to take us through many different times, starting with 1910s and ending with the 1930s, with subtle but noticeable shifts in period detail. However, watching this movie will inevitably remind people of another, better golf film, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Both are gorgeous to look at and ideal for family viewing, but unlike Bagger Vance, Bobby Jones has no sense of magic to it.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The original aspect ratio of 2.40:1 is preserved in this RSDL transfer. The cinematography is gorgeously captured on DVD, with vibrant, luscious colors permeating throughout. Detail is strong and the contrast is rock solid. Fleshtones are remarkable, though there is an occasional bit of grain on some close-ups. Otherwise, this transfer is top notch.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is not much more active than a Dolby Stereo one would be. Apart from the musical score and a scene with rain, the surround speakers are not utilized here. Dialogue and sound effects are relegated to the front soundstage, with nary a instance of sound separation or directionality. The dialogue is crisp and easily audible, as are the sound effects. Considering that this is a 5.1 track, however, it is a rather uninspiring. A French Dolby Stereo track is also available, as well as a narrative track for the blind.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Chinese, English, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Radio, A League of Their Own: Special Edition DVD, Rudy: Deluxe Special Edition DVD, The Natural, Brian's Song
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
5 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Prof. Richard Brown, Rowdy Herrington
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:31m:54s

Extra Extras:
  1. Bloopers—a collection of assorted outtakes from the making of the movie.
  2. Photo Gallery—a collection of still photographs from the set and the movie.
Extras Review: Accompanying the film is a collection of extras. An audio commentary by director Rowdy Herrington and NYU film professor Richard Brown in which Brown dominates, though he doesn't say anything particularly interesting. Most of what the two men discuss is nothing more than a narration of what is happening on the screen. Herrington offers a few more stories about the real Bobby Jones that should have been added to the movie, because it would have livened things up (such as Bobby arguing a courtroom case and being invited out for golf by the judge). Following that is a blooper real (5m:22s) that primarily consists of just good-natured kidding around on the set. None of the jokes or bloopers produces a laugh, however.

There's a collection (4m:46s) of four deleted scenes that can be played together. All four scenes are of the young Bobby Jones played by Devon Gearhart and were wisely cut from the final film. They aren't bad, but they would have slowed down the story's first act unnecessarily. They're presented in 2.40:1 widescreen and are not completely finished products. Following that is the documentary Celebrating the Legend—The Making of Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius (17m:01s). Consisting of mini-DV footage, interviews with the cast and crew, and clips from the movie, the documentary is a rather by-the-numbers publicity piece. Each person talks about their opinion of Bobby Jones and the others they are working with, but little is said in terms of how things were done. Some interesting comments about the famous St. Andrews golf course are made, but apart from that there's nothing special here.

There is also a collection of featurettes about Bobby Jones and golfing. The Friendship Speech (03m:21s) is one that Bobby gave to the people of St. Andrew in 1958. The speech itself is shown, but the quality of the film and sound is pretty poor. Following that is Golf Means Fellowship (00m:48s), a letter of Jones' read by John Imley about the importance of golf. The next featurette is The First Tee (03m:14s), with an introduction by Jim Caviezel for a charity organization that tries to help kids learn the values of hard work and golf, among other things. After that is ASAP (04m:07s), a brief educational video about the neurological disease Bobby Jones suffered from. The final featurette is East Lake (02m:21s), which is hosted by the president of the East Lake Golf Club (where Bobby Jones used to play) and introduces audiences to the movie.

Trailers are included for Radio, A League of Their Own: Special Edition DVD, Rudy: Deluxe Special Edition DVD, The Natural, and Brian's Song. With the exception of Radio, all of them are shown in nonanamorphic video. Rounding out the extras is a photo gallery of stills from the movie and also some behind-the-scenes photos. Like the movie itself, these extras aren't irritating, but rather uninspiring.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius is a well-intended biographical portrait that never fulfills its duty to present a dramatic, entertaining story. This DVD has a very nice image transfer and a pleasant, but dull, Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. The extras are not particularly involving, so this title is more deserving of a rental than a purchase.

 


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