A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie has a brief but bloody battle scene, brief mild language, brief sexual references, and inexplicit sexual situations. A woman offers to trade a man sex for a favor. She does not go through with it, even though it is clear that she loves him, in fact, probably because she loves him. A man commits suicide (off-camera). Junuh abuses alcohol in an attempt to forget his experiences and his pain.
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What's the story?
In THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE, a golden boy, young, handsome, a champion golfer, wins the heart of Adele (Charlize Theron), the most beautiful debutante in Georgia. His roots in Savannah are so deep that even his name seems spelled with a Southern accent -- Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon). Then he goes off to fight in World War I, and comes home "confused, broken, and unable to face a return to a hero's welcome." He does not speak to Adele or see any of his old friends and he does not play golf for more than 10 years. And then Adele needs him to play the two greatest golfers in the world at an exhibition match that can keep her from bankruptcy. A mysterious stranger named Bagger Vance (Will Smith) arrives to give Junuh the guidance he needs to get back in the game.
Is it any good?
Your ability to appreciate this movie will depend on your tolerance for larger-than life stories with allegorical, even epical, overtones. Some people will find it simplistic and clichéd. They will see Bagger Vance's relationship with Junuh as too much like having Yoda coach Luke Skywalker. Vance tells Junuh things that will either strike you as wise or fortune-cookie corny, depending on your point of view. But others, particularly those who have spent some time in the South, will recognize it as not too far off from the way things actually occur in that part of the country, especially on the golf course. They will enjoy the sun-dappled greens and the pleasures of seeing a man find a swing that makes a sound like thunder when it drives the ball.
This movie has a lot in common with A River Runs Through It. Like that one, this story begins with an old man remembering the sport and the setting of his youth, with golf, like fly-fishing, as a metaphor for man's interaction with nature and fate and even love. But A River Runs Through It was more complex and more comfortable with ambiguity. Its message was that a person can love completely without understanding completely. This movie, with its more traditional journey of redemption, is not as wise or moving. But it is a good story, lovingly told, and beautiful to watch.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the differences in how the characters when things go badly. Older kids may want to talk about the potential racism inherent in assigning a sort of magical "otherness" to the lone black character. Families can also talk about how this movie shows the importance of integrity, and about how we find our own "authentic swings," the ones that our hands know before our heads do.