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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius
Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius
Columbia/Tri-Star // PG // November 30, 2004
List Price: $26.96 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Matthew Millheiser | posted December 23, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

I should probably preface this review by admitting that I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a golf aficionado. I grew up living across the street from a golf course, and played a lot when I was younger, but I grew out of the sport upon reaching the Age of Reason. That's not a slight against you golf fans out there; it's just not my thing. Plus I royally, royally sucked at it, and had a lot more fun smirking at funny white people in funny clothes while smoking cigars and downing Green Lizards.

So I really didn't know much about the titular hero of Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius until receiving this screener. This is where I learned more about Bobby Jones; that he was a golf legend, the greatest amateur to ever play the game. He was a sickly child, born and raised in Atlanta, who grew up with a love of golf. In a feat that has not gone repeated in the history of the sport, he went on to win the "Grand Slam" of golf in 1930. He single-handedly emerged victorious at all four major championships: the British Open, U.S. Open, British Amateur, and U.S. Amateur tournaments. He then promptly retired at the age of 28 and eventually went on to co-design the Augusta National Golf Course.

The 2004 film acts mostly as a celebration of the man's accomplishments, rather than as in-depth exploration of the man himself. Directed by Rowdy Herrington, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Bill Pryor and Tony DePaul, and produced by Bobby Jones Films LLC, Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius is an amiable film but not really a compelling one. The movie begins in 1935 with a retired Bobby Jones (Jim Caviezel) returning to the legendary greens of St. Andrews, and flashes back to his childhood and gradual ascendancy into golf legend. His career is shaped by his relationship with his father "Big Bob" Jones (Brett Rice), an attorney whose golf longings were scuttled by Bobby's hard-nosed, religious-minded grandfather (Dan Albright). Jones competes in several tournaments as a young teenager, never winning but competing valiantly enough to win the respect of his friends, family, and neighbors. We flash forward to Bobby's young adulthood, in which he balances his desire to play the game with his yearning to live an equally vibrant "secular" life. He competes in tournaments, but goes to school at Georgia Tech, eventually earning a law degree. He pursues, wins the heart of, and marries Mary Malone (box-office poison Claire Forlani), but his constant absenteeism - both as a husband and a father - really frosts her onions. And in the midst of it all is Bobby's love of the game; he plays, not for money or fame, but simply because he loves golf. For Bobby Jones, golf isn't about the big payoff or the prestige, a fact that didn't escape the notice of his biographer O. B. Keeler (Malcolm McDowell).

Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius is a nice little movie, but it lacks much in terms of dramatic conflict or compelling characterizations. Bobby Jones, as a character, is pretty one-note throughout the film. Caviezel is a fine actor, but there is little here that truly distinguishes the role he is playing. Jones loves golf, not attention, and plays for the game itself. That's pretty much it. There's some attention paid to his temperamental outbursts, his drinking, and his struggle to deal with syringomyelia, a nervous disorder that affected him throughout his life, but it's all cursory and, in terms of the story presented here, altogether inconsequential. The nostalgic and reverential tone that permeates the film is sweet and warm, but the film ultimately lacks any sort of dramatic weight. Overall it's an OK movie, but it's nothing truly compelling or memorable.

The DVD

Video:

Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius is presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and has been anamorphically-enhanced for your widescreen-viewing acceptance. The picture shows off a lot of the natural beauty on display in the film, including the rural fairways, the Scottish Old Course, blue skies and period settings. The reproduction is general pleasant, with warm color tones, but the image seems to be slightly filtered to give the entire proceedings a timeless look and feel. A smidgeon of edge-enhancement rears its head every now and then, but nothing overly excessive. Sharpness could have been a tad stronger, but generally this is a nice looking image.

Audio:

The audio is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. There is nothing distracting nor impressive about the audio; it simply does a serviceable job in presenting the film in a satisfactory manner. Dialog levels are crisp and display remarkable clarity without hiss or distortion. There isn't much in terms of aggressive directionality, enveloping immersion, or pinpoint directionality in the soundfield. Most of the activity is centered around the front, with little background activity or LFE punch. Still, the movie sounds rich and fine, although it won't challenge your system anytime soon.

Extras:

The special features begin with an audio commentary track featuring director Rowdy Herrington and "Special Guest" Professor Richard Brown, NYU Professor of Film & Video. The commentary is generally insightful, but the back-and-forth, Q&A style repartee between Brown and Herrington grows a little dry after awhile. Still, they go into fine detail about the making of the film and the choices that were made in its production.

Continuing onwards, we have five minutes of blooper footage, which seems to be more like outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage than actual bloopers. Next up we have nearly five-minutes of deleted scenes. There are four of them in all, and they were removed to speed up the first act of the film. I can see why this decision was made, as these scenes, while well-shot and well-acted, add little to the overall thrust of the story.

"Celebrating the Legend" - The Making of Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius is just that: a seventeen-minute look into the making of the film. We see some actual archival footage of the real Bobby Jones, and the feature interviews the cast and crew as they share their thoughts on the making of the film. Claire Forlani's British? I never knew that. Funny. Hmm. Anyway, it's a brief but informative look at the film's production history, although it does repeat a little information from the commentary track.

The Legacy is a collection of video footage both featuring and about Bobby Jones - his life, his legacy, his disease, and his influence. Running around 14 minutes in length, collectively, these short clips add some depth to how Jones affected so many people, even after his death in 1971. There are five clips in all: The Friendship Speech, Golf Means Fellowship, The First Tee, ASAP, and East Lake.

Photo gallery contains several snapshots taken from the production, with annotated notes at the bottom of the screen. Finally, there are preview trailers for Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius as well as other sports-related Columbia/Tri-Star DVDs: Radio, A League of Their Own, Rudy, The Natural, and Brian's Song.

Final Thoughts

Your enjoyment of Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius will depend entirely upon (a) how big a golf fan you are, and (b) the amount of awe to which you regard Mr. Jones and his amazing legacy. I admit the man's achievements in the sport are mind-blowingly impressive, and the movie does retain a warm, sentimental tone that chases the vapors away like a frosty glass of ice-cold lemonade. But the film lacks any real depth, conflict, or urgency: Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius is fairly routine and ultimately none-too-compelling.

The DVD itself is rewarding to the film's fans. The presentation of the source material is pleasant enough, with a decent transfer and a satisfactory audio soundtrack. The extras are mostly of solid quality: most fans will get a kick out of the commentary track and the "Legacy" portion of the disc. Overall, if you're a golf or sports enthusiast, you might want to give this disc your time. Otherwise, it's a rental for the curious.

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