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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Natural is a 1984 movie in which Robert Redford plays a mysterious and gifted baseball player who emerges as a rookie in his mid-30s and turns his team's fortunes around. For lovers of baseball movies and sports films in general, this is one of the all-time classics. As a movie set in the late 1930s, there's regular cigarette and cigar smoking. The lead character is shot in the chest and falls to the ground bleeding; the woman who shot him is later shown in a picture on the sidewalk dead and covered in blood. Implied sex when a seductive woman enters the lead character's hotel room, removes her coat, and reveals nothing underneath (no nudity). Beer and alcohol drinking, but no one acts drunk. Cursing includes "son of a bitch" and "s--tkicker." The lead character's father dies of a heart attack in a flashback scene.
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What's the story?
THE NATURAL stars Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs, a rising baseball star sidetracked by tragedy, who mysteriously reappears decades later as a rookie in the major leagues. His smashing at-bats quickly dispels skepticism about his age, but when he succumbs to temptations his luck runs cold. He doesn't want to help himself out of the funk: his mysterious "lost years" are off-limits for discussion to his girlfriend, his managers (Wilford Brimley and sweet-eyed Richard Farnsworth), and press hound Robert Duvall.
Is it any good?
Off the field, the dialogue is often inexplicable and women, in general, are trouble. Barbara Hershey and Kim Basinger play femme fatales, and Glenn Close is Hobbs' reticent lady in white. Each are given complexity to flesh out character, but some scenes fall head-scratchingly flat: the true trouble stemming from the strain of forcing legend into a modern script.
Still, The Natural has iconic moments (Glenn Close in the stadium under a sunlit halo of a hat, and the cascading shards of popping stadium lights), and is off-kilter enough to temper much of the sentimentality. Baseball fans will appreciate that this movie is at its most intelligent and loosest in the ballpark, where happily, Redford and Levinson are also most comfortable. The lead's unwavering integrity is the movie's heart: The Natural does not glamorize vice but triumphs over it with a wholesome finale.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about sports movies. How is this similar to and different from other sports movies?
In sports movies, how do the filmmakers heighten the tension and action when the climactic scene involves the lead character who must find a way to win in spite of the challenges? How is The Natural an example of this convention?
What aspects of this movie make it enjoyable and entertaining even for those who might not be baseball fans?
- In theaters: May 11, 1984
- On DVD or streaming: April 3, 2001
- Cast: Glenn Close, Robert Duvall, Robert Redford
- Director: Barry Levinson
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts
- Character Strengths: Integrity, Perseverance
- Run time: 134 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: language
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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