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review added: 5/15/00



Field of Dreams
Collector’s Edition - 1989 (1998) - Universal

review by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits

Field of Dreams: Collector's Edition Film Rating: A+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C-/C+/A

Specs and Features

106 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 29:09 at chapters 11), Amaray keep case packaging, commentary (with director Phil Alden Robinson and director of photography John Lindley), "making-of" documentary Field of Dreams Scrapbook, (approx. 90 mins, 36 chapters), shooting script, production stills, production notes, cast and filmmakers’ biographies, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (34 chapters), languages: English and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: Spanish, Closed Captioned

"If you build it, he will come."

"Pure magic" is synonymous with Field of Dreams. Rarely are film enthusiasts privileged enough to experience a film that so effectively captures the heart and soul of a story - a story involving some of the basic elements of Americana such as family, self-actualization, and, of course, baseball. By guiding the characters through this touching story with sprinklings of magic, the filmmakers craft a tale of realization and redemption that hits harder than Mark McGuire punishes fastballs.

Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) is a small farmer in Iowa frightened that he is becoming too much like his father - a man who led a sad and unfulfilled life. He is compelled to sacrifice some of his crop to build a baseball diamond after he hears a mysterious voice tell him, "If you build it, he will come." Ray believes that "he" is the legendary "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, a disgraced baseball player that his father idolized. If Shoeless Joe (Ray Liotta) could somehow play ball again, Ray - who fought with his father until his dying day - might reconcile with his father’s memory.

However, worried that the farm might be lost financially, Ray and his wife Anni (Amy Madigan) soon consider tearing down the diamond... until one magical evening, when Shoeless Joe appears on the field. Ray believes he has appeased the mysterious voice, until it suggests that he "Ease his pain." Thinking the voice is referring to ‘60s radical writer Terence Mann (James Earl Jones), Ray contacts him. His story intrigues Mann and entices him into this magical journey. Ray must come to terms with his own past, and figure out whose pain he must ease.

Kevin Costner is one of today’s more wooden actors, however he fits in this film because his bland personality parallels Ray Kinsella’s persona. The supporting cast of Field of Dreams is what really makes this movie work. James Earl Jones delivers one of his more brilliant performances here, as a peace-loving radical turned hard-edged loner. The audience sees Jones slowly melt into the story and become a source of guidance for Ray Kinsella. Burt Lancaster portrays Dr. Archie "Moonlight" Graham, an elderly small-town physician who had one fleeting moment in the major league spotlight when he was a young man. The short time Lancaster appears in this film is touching and inspirational, and will remind viewers how much he is missed as one of America’s greatest actors.

The emotional story and wonderful cast are aided by other important factors. James Horner’s beautiful score absolutely propels this film into higher emotional levels. The score’s sweeping melodies and budding crescendos place your heart directly into the moment. Photography is another key to the excellence of this movie. The delicate sunsets and majesty of the vast cornfields prompt the famous exchange, "Is this heaven?" "No, it’s Iowa."

The non-anamorphic widescreen picture (framed at 1.85:1) is a travesty. The dirty print used for the transfer is hazy, dark, and has a distracting amount of grain and compression artifacting. Strike one for Universal. The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is anchored toward the center of the soundstage with harsh and unnatural vocal integration. While the moving score has a nice level spatiality and fidelity, it is not consistent with the vocal and sound effect mixing of the track. Strike two for Universal. I implore those in charge of DVD at the studio to re-release Field of Dreams with a new anamorphic transfer and 5.1 sound, so this classic film can finally be experienced in all the glory it deserves.

Thankfully, when it comes to value-added supplements on DVD, Universal usually bats a 1000. Field of Dreams is no exception. The audience is treated to a full-fledged documentary about the making of this fine film, Field of Dreams Scrapbook. At approximately 90 minutes, and with 36 chapter stops, this is no empty, re-hashed promo reel. Fans of the movie are given lengthy insight into everything from the origins of the story, to Horner’s crafting of the score, to the film’s marketing overseas. The commentary track (by director Phil Alden Robinson and director of photography John Lindley) is very informative, but most of what's discussed is covered in the documentary. Also included is the shooting script for those who wish to carefully dissect dialog. Production stills, and the requisite (at least for Universal) cast and crew bios, production notes, and theatrical trailer are also provided.

I dare anyone to make it through the end of Field of Dreams with a dry eye. The magical feeling that you are left with fills your heart with joy. And while the audio and video on this disc leave much to be desired, the film and extras are just enough to make it worth a look. One last note - if you ever happen to be passing through Dyersville, Iowa, you can visit the actual baseball diamond used in the film, hit a few balls and even run the bases yourself. Tell 'em the Bits sent you.

Greg Suarez
gregsuarez@thedigitalbits.com




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