tek's rating: ¾

Field of Dreams (PG)
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Caution: spoilers.

This is based on a book I haven't read. It came out in 1989, and I must have seen it on TV sometime in the early 90s. I don't remember for sure, but I think I probably found it boring, at the time. So when I watched it on DVD in 2021 just to write a review, I wasn't expecting to like it much. And indeed, I wasn't really into it at first. It just seemed kind of corny (pun intended) and ridiculous. But as it went on, I found it more and more enjoyable. It's still not something I could love, but I could at least understand completely why some people would. It's certainly a sentimental film, and I've nothing against that. Anyway... I'm putting the review under "sports films," though it might be more apt to call it a fantasy or supernatural movie. But since I don't watch many sports movies, I figured that category could stand to be filled out more.

It begins with Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) narrating some stuff about his father's life, then his own life, and how baseball connected them. But also how they became estranged when Ray was a teenager. His narration also includes Ray meeting his wife, Annie (Amy Madigan) and moving to Iowa to become a farmer. They live there now with their young daughter Karin (Gaby Hoffmann), who has relatively few lines, but who I would say was somewhat precocious for her age. Anyway, one day Ray is out walking in his cornfield when he starts hearing a voice say "If you build it, he will come". This naturally weirds him out for some time, before he finally gets a vision of a baseball field and a deceased player of whom his father had been a fan, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta). So he mows down a section of his cornfield to build the baseball field, and waits for something to happen. We see a brief scene in winter with him staring out the window, still waiting. It isn't until I would guess about a year after building the baseball field that Shoeless Joe finally shows up, wondering if he's in Heaven. And he's happy to have the chance to play baseball again, after a scandal during his lifetime got him banned from the sport. Later, he brings more dead baseball players to play on the field.

Meanwhile, having gone through their savings to build the field, and now having less acreage for corn, means Ray and Annie are in financial trouble. They can't afford their mortgage, and the bank could foreclose and evict them. So Annie's brother, Mark (Timothy Busfield) convinces his business partners to buy the farm before that can happen, but Ray doesn't want to sell. He also hears the voice deliver another cryptic message, "Ease his pain". He thinks he figures out what that means during a PTA meeting in which a woman is trying to get books by a 1960s writer named Terrence Mann (James Earl Jones) banned at school, believing them to be "smut". (While I disagreed with all of her complaints about his books, the one I think I hated the most was "the mongrelization of the races". When Annie gives an impassioned speech against the book banning, I was disappointed she didn't call out that blatantly racist shit.) Anyway, Ray believes he's meant to ease Terrence's pain. (I understand him being focused on that after the meeting, but I thought he should have taken some time to acknowledge Annie's enthusiasm over her victory in the debate.) So, he drives to Boston to find Terrence, who just wants to be left alone. But Ray finally convinces him to attend one baseball game with him, where they both hear the voice say "go the distance". This eventually leads them to Minnesota, to look for another former baseball player named Archibald "Moonlight" Graham, who turns out to be dead... but Ray meets his ghost. He wants Archie to go with him to Iowa, but Archie, who had become a doctor, doesn't want to go. However, when Ray and Terrence are driving to Iowa, they meet a younger version of Archie hitchhiking, and he goes with them.

By the time they get to Iowa, there are even more dead players on the field, but unfortunately only Ray, Annie, Karin, and Terrence can see them. Mark can't, and thinks they're all crazy or pretending to see players. But... something happens that finally allows Mark to see them, at which point he agrees that Ray shouldn't sell the farm. And Karin and Terrence both have an idea that could put an end to the Kinsellas' financial problems. And now, I've said way too much about the plot, so I'll shut up. But I definitely ended up liking the movie considerably more than I expected to.

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