Smiling knowingly from beneath his shabby hat (which looks as if it has seen more than a few free bowls of soup), Smith is ideal in the well-worn role, but -- to borrow songstress Loreena McKennitt's term for her sublime backing ensemble -- he's also an idling Porsche, squelched into mannered behavior that can scarcely contain his ample reservoirs of charm and wit. (Note to producers: Let Smith direct Redford next time.) He's the best of the bunch here, but the movie's detached rosiness adds a cumbersome handicap, as with Theron -- whose every scene looks like springtime in a pantyliner commercial -- and Damon, who is simply another diluted entry in a growing line of stand-ins (Hutton, Pitt, Fiennes) for the director himself.
Like most of his films after the poignant Ordinary People and jovial Milagro Beanfield War -- especially the interminable The Horse Whisperer -- Bagger Vance is a story of healing that shies away from its own soulful potential, cowering behind lush cinematography and immaculate production design. In essence, it's another pretty and polite story of a wrecked course having its divots systematically replaced.