Why you should care
Carving out a far-fetched sports fantasy amid the field of summer films might have sounded crazy. But if you build it, he will cry.
Field of Dreams, released 25 years ago today, was a risky concoction of sports, the supernatural and sentimentality. The beloved film fantasy, based on a novel by W.P. Kinsella, depicts an Iowa farmer who, at the behest of a voice he hears, rips up his cornfield to build a baseball diamond in the hopes that the disgraced Black Sox baseball legend “Shoeless Joe” Jackson will come back to life.
Even viewers who loved the film, such as the late critic Roger Ebert, considered it “a delicate movie, a fragile construction of one goofy fantasy after another.” Yet as Kevin Costner, who is returning with other cast members to Dyersville, Iowa, to commemorate the film’s anniversary, recently reflected on its enduring appeal, “Movies are emotional experiences, not intellectual.”
Which is perhaps why — even as your head tells you that Shoeless Joe batted left-handed, not right, or that an Iowa farmer would never wear short sleeves in shoulder-high corn — your heart swells at the sight of freshly cut grass, the sound of the crack of a baseball bat at twilight and the possibility of making up for lost chances — what one reviewer called an “unashamed parable of male longing.”
One reviewer called the film an ’unashamed parable of male longing.’
And no scene in the film hits closer to home with male moviegoers than the climactic one in which Costner asks the ghost of his long-deceased father, played by Dwier Brown, “Hey … Dad? You wanna have a catch?”
That brief scene, filmed over a two-week period during the 15 minutes just after sunset and set to the timeless, Oscar-nominated score by James Horner (who would go on to to win Oscars for Braveheart and Titanic), did not originally include the word “Dad” — it was dubbed in during post-production after test audiences urged the fillmmakers to make the bond between father and son even more explicit.
In his forthcoming book If You Build It, Brown, 55, whose own father had died just before filming began, recounts the unbelievable stories that strangers have told him about their fathers and how the movie changed their lives.
“Over the years, people have come up to me and bring up that moment in the movie that really opens up the audience’s heart,” he says. “It almost feels like a priest hearing a confession. I usually end up giving them a hug.”
Ready to walk through the corn again and dip yourself in the magic waters of the past? It’s not subtle, it’s not realistic, but it’s not far from heaven.