Field of Dreams: The Quintessential Baseball Movie

Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams. Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Field of Dreams, the 1989 classic starring Kevin Costner, is the quintesssential baseball film and the perfect baseball movie to watch on Father’s Day.

“If you build it, he will come.”  These seven words are among the most famous lines in cinematic history.  “Ease his pain.”  “Go the distance.”  “Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa.”  And there’s the Terrence Mann monologue about why people will come.

Field of Dreams takes it’s basis from perhaps one of the most far-fetched ideas out there.  Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) hears a voice one night while he’s out in the cornfield.  Unbeknownst to him, neither his wife, Annie (Amy Madigan), nor their daughter, Karin (Gaby Hoffman), hears the voice.  Following a vision, Ray turns their cornfield into a baseball field.  It’s a crazy idea but Annie goes along with it.  Ray believes that if he builds a baseball field, Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta) will come back.  When Shoeless Joe does finally arrive onto the scene, other players from the 1919 Black Sox soon follow.

Before a PTA meeting, the voice calls out to “ease his pain.”  It’s not until after the meeting in which Ray realizes this refers to Terrence Mann (James Earl Jones).  The reclusive author stands in for J.D. Salinger.  Ray has to fake kidnap Mann and take him to a baseball game, which eventually leads them to take a trip to Chisholm, Minn. and find Moonlight Graham.  However, Graham died years earlier but Ray magically travels back in time to find Graham on a late night walk.  Soon, Ray and Mann drive towards Iowa where they pick up a hitchhiker by the name of Archie Graham (Frank Whaley).  There’s a lot of character development as Mann gets to know Ray back on the farm.

Annie’s brother, Mark (Timothy Busfield), can’t see the players.  In fact, he pressures them to sell the farm.  This goes on until after Moonlight Graham (Burt Lancaster) crosses the foul line to rescue Karin following a fall.  At which point, Mark can finally see the players.  It’s at this point when Mark understands that they should not sell the farm.

It’s shortly thereafter when Shoeless Joe invites Mann into the cornfield.  Ray becomes angry but soon understands why when the catcher reveals himself to be his dad, John Kinsella (Dwier Brown).

Watching the bonus features adds some extra insight into the film.  Burt Lancaster was nearing the end of a 45-year film and television career.  They’re sharing memories of when they were blocking the scene when Moonlight Graham walks over to rescue Ray and Annie’s daughter, Karin.  Timothy Busfield is in the scene and remember, he was 30 going on 31 when the film started production.  The Oscar winner thought Busfield was a gopher and kept asking him to get things like water or a chair.

In the bonus features, Ray Liotta discusses his portrayal of Shoeless Joe Jackson and how he’s batting the wrong way.  It’s because of this that Liotta always sure things are accurate when it came to future projects.  Of course, this certainly isn’t the only problem.  Another error is that Doc Graham died in the mid-1960s rather than after The Godfather was released in theaters.  This is all forgivable because the film is such a classic.  I can let it slide because of the memorable lines that stick in your head.  Plus, how can you not choke up with Ray and John are having a catch?

To buy into the film, you have to suspend disbelief.  No matter how many times I watch the film, I can’t take my eyes off of the screen.  Every single time that I flip through the listing and see Field of Dreams playing on MLB Network, I’m legally obligated to turn it on.  And I own the movie!  Field of Dreams is baseball perfection.

DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER:  Phil Alden Robinson
CAST:  Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones, with Ray Liotta and Burt Lancaster

Universal Pictures opened Field of Dreams in theaters on May 5, 1989. Grade: 5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.