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With: Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, Gaby Hoffmann, Ray Liotta, Timothy Busfield, James Earl Jones, Burt Lancaster, Frank Whaley
Written by: Phil Alden Robinson, based on the book by W.P. Kinsella
Directed by: Phil Alden Robinson
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 107
Date: 04/21/1989

Field of Dreams (1989)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Anyone who loves their father or baseball -- or both -- will find it difficult -- no, impossible -- to resist this hokey, wonderful film.

Based on W.P. Kinsella's overwritten 1982 novel Shoeless Joe, the film tells the highly improbable and nonsensical story of a farmer (Kevin Costner) who hears the now famous refrain, "If you build it, he will come." Hence he builds a ballpark in the middle of his cornfield in the hopes of bringing back the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta).

Jackson had been suspended for his participation in the 1919 "Black Sox" scandal in which eight players were accused of trying to throw the World Series for money. One of the greatest of all players, Jackson was never allowed to play again. This fantasy allows us to believe that he could be given a second chance.

Of course, reality sets in and the financial problems of leveling half his crops come to bear. But more miracles happen and everything works out. The farmer's wife (Amy Madigan) stands by him the whole time, and a writer (James Earl Jones) and a former ballplayer-turned-doctor (Burt Lancaster) come into play.

The writer/director Phil Alden Robinson gives the movie a gentle, peaceful feel even if it lacks a directorial style. Robinson never bothers to explain the connection between a cornfield and these old-time ballplayers, nor does he seem to care. He's completely bowled over by the material, and so are we.

Not even Costner can ruin this one with his mild, one-note performance, which was a problem in Bull Durham. Rather, Field of Dreams was made specifically for his folksy, drawling rhythms.

Though my current favorite is The Rookie (2002), many rank this as the greatest baseball movie of all time. Field of Dreams was nominated for Best Picture and Best Screenplay, which may have been a little too kind, especially since Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing may have been left out because of it. James Horner's tear-inducing score was also nominated.

Universal has re-released Field of Dreams on a Special Edition two-disc DVD set with tons of bonus features, including deleted scenes, a commentary track, several featurettes and trivia. The picture has been re-mastered and the sound is now presented in 5.1 Dolby surround.

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