Buying into the sweet, slow Southern feel of Savannah, Georgia (filmic graveyard of slumbering nonsense like Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil and The Gingerbread Man), Redford produces the stickiest and sickliest of films. Slathering the action in amber-filtered light, it's easy to believe he'd shot Bagger Vance in an actual vat of syrup as opposed to a metaphorical one. Certainly, Will Smith and Matt Damon would have floundered about less.
They're a pair who should be able to make any movie shine, but here they barely manage enough star wattage for a half-hearted glimmer. Damon's Ranulph Junah is almost as ridiculous as his name. A World War One veteran who looks barely old enough to have survived the horrors of detention, let alone the Trenches, he sleepwalks his way through a role for which he's woefully miscast. What made anyone thinks he'd convince as an upper-class southern gentleman golfer? He can't do the accent, looks badly out of place togged up in a DJ and - as for his mythically beautiful golf swing - hits balls like a man digging up tarmac.
But at least he looks a lot more comfortable than Smith. For Bagger Vance is a millstone of a role - and Smith just doesn't look as if he had the slightest clue where to begin assembling the character of the mysterious spirit who helps the lost and lonely re-learn the game of golf. Affecting a hazy air of smug omnipotence, the Fresh Prince ditches his greatest cinematic charm - the ability to make almost anyone like him - in favour of the sort of mannered playing that makes anyone watching the film want to punch his frigging lights out.
All concerned should have left this sleepy, silly, sentimental nonsense back in the club house.