Remember those fabulous ’60s? The protests, the Be-Ins, the music? Writer-director Phil Alden Robinson wants you to remember them — plus the Brooklyn Dodgers, It’s a Wonderful Life, and anything else guaranteed to push this generation’s emotional buttons. His Field of Dreams is less a movie than a canny marketing strategy.
There is a potentially interesting story in this Oscar nominee. Kevin Costner, cast for maximum Gary Cooper-ish American icon value, plays a ’60s refugee who builds a baseball field in response to a mystical voice. When he’s done, he resurrects the ghosts of the legendary Chicago Black Sox, coaxes a Richard Brautigan-like writer out of retirement from life, and has a four-handkerchief reconciliation with his dead father.
But Robinson isn’t content to play this material as The Pride of the Yankees meets The Twilight Zone. He weighs it down with soggy mysticism, little-guy-against-the-system bombast, greeting-card philosophy (”Heaven is a place where your dreams come true,” Costner says with a commendably straight face), and shameless pandering to the Big Chill crowd (Madigan actually has to say, ”Oh wow!” frequently and without any irony). And he has an appalling weakness for the obvious (Patsy Cline’s ”Crazy” plays when Costner’s neighbors look at him funny).
The movie was an enormous theatrical hit; it obviously spoke to some people. In fairness, the acting is terrific, the cinematography has a nice Spielbergian sweep, and James Horner’s score evokes an elegiac mood well served by the Hi-Fi soundtrack.
Still, the end result is the worst kind of thirtysomething kitsch. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: You’d need a heart of stone not to laugh at Field of Dreams. C-