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Blu-ray Review: Field of Dreams

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There is a saying amongst those who like sports movies — there are baseball movies, and then there is the baseball movie. To me, that means there is A League of Their Own and then the imposters. However, the rest of the world is not like me, and to them it means that there is Field of Dreams (FOD) and the imposters. The movie is so loved that it placed sixth on AFI's list of Top-Ten Fantasy films of all time. Alas, wars are fought over smaller divisions.

For those of you who have never seen FOD (I hadn’t until starting this review, so you are not alone), the movie is one of baseball, mystery, and a whole bunch of ghosts. Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) is a former pot-smoking hippie turned farmer in the Iowa countryside. One day, while walking through his field of corn, he hears a voice telling him that “if you build it, they will come.” Though it is clear to the viewer that Ray is going crazy (or, as his wife indicates, having an acid flashback), the movie takes about five minutes to actually have Ray think that himself. I don’t know about you, but if I was hearing voices while walking through my corn I would run, not ask them questions.

After seeing a vision of a baseball diamond in his field (even more evidence that he is insane), Ray plows down his crop, to the amusement and wonderment of his neighbors, and promptly builds one. This sets up a financial crisis, but also allows for ghosts of players past to show up and play some ball. Ray gets to play with some of the greats, and even gets to play with somebody he swore he would never forgive.

FOD is an interesting movie, but one that is extremely overrated. While the history is quite interesting and well done (quotes are accurate, Moonlight was a real player, etc.), the overall feel of the movie is horrific. I do not understand why people like this movie at all. A man goes insane, destroys his family’s livelihood, and then plays baseball with ghosts. Seriously folks, where is the plot in this?

Frankly, I really do not believe that FOD deserves any sort of acclaim or top ten status, but i do realize that it is loved by most people. That said, however, I do not understand the love which is heaped upon it. The plot had holes — random character changes in Terence Mann wanting to join Ray after hating him and Ray's cousin suddenly being able to see; the storyline was illogical – a bunch of ghosts don't show up, force you to plow your money-maker, and then play ball — and the entire point of the movie is lost on most people. From various reviews I have seen, along with discussions with friends who love the movie, it seems as though most people see FOD as a movie about baseball. It isn’t. This is a movie about forgiveness, not baseball, and the ability to give people a second chance. That is the entire point of the movie, yet it is hidden by layers of bad dialog and personal tales. The only redeeming thing about FOD is the acting and the imagery.

Speaking of the acting, FOD has a grand cast. Even though Costner usually is the only ‘big’ actor in his movies, FOD has many amazing and gifted actors supporting him. Joining Costner in his romp through corn fields is Amy Madigan, who plays his wife Annie. The Shoeless Joe Jackson is played, quite convincingly, by Ray Liotta. Burt Lancaster plays Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham, a real-life former MLB player who had literally less than five minutes in the bigs. The cast is rounded out by the formidable James Earl Jones, who plays Terence 'Terry' Mann.

The only other worthwhile thing in FOD would be the luscious and encompassing Iowa countryside. The movie, which was mostly shot on location, is full of this lush farmland, acres of corn, and a real baseball diamond. This imagery actually draws the viewer into the movie itself, and leads to the bit of credibility that it has.

Speaking of the looks, the transfer of FOD to Blu-ray is not exactly up to par. The movie keeps the original grainy film, which made it look horrific on my HDTV. Though the movie is better than on film, the look is roughly that of when it was on DVD. For a movie of this cult standing, FOD deserved a much better transfer. The only thing good about the film transfer was that the Iowa countryside was still vibrant and stunning and the fact that the black levels were properly deep. Frankly, it almost looks as though this was a DVD, not a BD.

The sound, on the other hand, was extremely well done. Using all of my surround-sound speakers, the sound was perfect perfect. I heard whispers coming from behind me, the whistle of a baseball as it flew by, and all of the action on the screen. The audio was also extremely well balanced, as I lost no dialog or sounds throughout the movie. I actually found the score to be quite moving, which is surprising considering the plot and the script.

As for extras, there are two featurettes, a look at the "real Field of Dreams," a scrap book, some storyboarding, the typical deleted scenes and audio commentary, and a roundtable discussion between Costner and some former baseball greats. None of the Blu-ray edition extras are new, as everything is on the DVD version or the Laserdisc version. This is stupid, as one point a Blu-ray release is to get DVD owners to upgrade, but by giving them nothing new, there is no reason to. Almost all of the extras are self-congratulatory and useless drivel, none of which are worth the time to see. Well, almost none of them. The deleted scenes are actually somewhat interesting (for once), as they reveal more of the interactions between Ray and his father.

Overall, I feel that Field of Dreams on Blu-ray is not worth your money to purchase, or your time to watch. The plot is full of holes, the movie is cheesy and extremely drab, and the quality is just like the DVD. There is almost nothing worthwhile about upgrading, unless you want the movie and don’t have it on DVD. Frankly, I think it is time for this movie, along with all the pop-culture references, to just die out.

Movie: The plot has holes; it was a waste of my time.
Blu-ray Quality:  The transfer was no different than that of the DVD.
Sound Quality: A moving score and well balanced audio does wonders.
Extras: Exactly what was on the DVD version, all useless drivel.
Overall: Great acting and a moving score can not save something this bad.

Field of Dreams is rated PG for language and some drug references.

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About Robert M. Barga