Anton Ego said it best in “Ratatouille” : “We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read.”
Let’s hope so because the only fun you can have with this movie is mocking it. This is perhaps the worst movie I can remember seeing in years. It will certainly be the worst movie on this project of 1984 films. It is a disaster in conception, execution and experience. My guess is that everybody involved would be perfectly happy to have this removed from their filmography. It is a blight that will lower anyone’s esteem.
Let me start by saying that I am a fan of the two stars and the director of this movie. While my catalog of Dolly Parton songs does not go deep, I do remember when “Jolene” was a crossover hit in 1973. Top forty radio played all kinds of songs and country tunes slipped into the top forty on the pop charts regularly. Sylvester Stallone is “Rocky”, “Rambo” and a dozen others that I have happily watched in dozens of movies over the years. Bob Clark directed two terrific Christmas movies and “Porky”s” so I know his work. “Rhinestone is a sad reminder that talent can be wasted when bad ideas get funded.
In the early 1980s, there were virtually no films featuring America’s pastime. The previous most successful baseball themed movie had been “the Bad News Bears”, a comedy about Little League baseball and a drunken coach played by Walter Matthau. That film came out in 1976. In 1984, Barry Levinson delivered “the Natural” and in the next ten years, there were more than eighteen films featuring the game of baseball. Do you suppose that is a coincidence? I’ve read a few criticisms of “The Natural” as a movie in the last couple of months. With no disrespect to those who have a different opinion, I’d have to say that “The Natural” is one of the most influential baseball films of all time, and that it may be one of the most beautiful movies ever made.
Many defenders of “the Natural” have gone as far as to say that the movie is not really about baseball. There are scholarly attempts to explain it through the prism of “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey”. There are allegories and direct references to mythology and the gods. I can’t say that any of those thoughts are wrong, I can say however, that the movie is about baseball more than anything else and regardless of the inspirations or literary roots, baseball is the source of it’s strengths.