Field Of Dreams

1989, Movie, PG, 107 mins

Review

FIELD OF DREAMS
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A rare choke-up movie for guys and one of 1989's biggest hits, Phil Alden Robinson's FIELD OF DREAMS made stiff but sensitive Kevin Costner a superstar. Based on the W.P. Kinsella's oddball fantasy novel Shoeless Joe--in which the protagonist kidnaps novelist J.D. Salinger--the film is a canny blend of myth, dreams, and baseball which (some viewers of good faith believe) actually skirts the sentimental and obvious.

At the urging of a mysterious voice, Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella (Costner) comes to believe that if he carves a baseball field out of his cornfield, his late father's hero, long-dead baseball great Shoeless Joe Jackson, will return to play. Supported by his wife, Annie (Amy Madigan), he plows away his family's livelihood and constructs a baseball field--complete with lights! His neighbors think he's crazy but--would you believe it?--Jackson (an unintentionally sinister-looking Ray Liotta) does indeed appear as the harbinger of an incredible assemblage of ghosts of all-stars past. However, nobody but Kinsella and his family can see these baseball greats. With his farm threatened by bankruptcy, Kinsella is mysteriously led to Boston's Fenway Park, and to a burned-out radical novelist (James Earl Jones) who may hold the key to the mystery.

If any movie of its decade begged to be called Capraesque, it is FIELD OF DREAMS, a sappy, good-naturedly dopey paean to traditional family values and nostalgia for innocent pleasures. The most powerful element of the movie is its trendy exploitation of men's yearning to bond with their fathers. For many people, particularly at the peak of the late-80s "Men's Movement," this was irresistible stuff; others were left cold by its manipulative, "Twilight Zone"-style fabulism. Ultimately, the film relies too heavily on consensual acceptance of baseball iconography as some kind of symbolic shorthand for all kinds of American values. These days, most of us prefer the NBA.
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