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Field of Dreams

Year: 1989
Production Co: Gordon Company
Studio: Universal
Director: Phil Alden Robinson
Writer: Phil Alden Robinson
Cast: Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta, Burt Lancaster, Timothy Busfield, Frank Whaley, Gaby Hoffman

Some films are great ideas let down badly in the execution. The film that made Kevin Costner an A list star is the reverse. On paper, the idea of a guy who builds a baseball field on his farm so the spirits of a charismatic pre-war baseball team come back to play there seems stupid, but it's bought to life with such gusto, emotional drama, spirited performances and such a moving score by James Horner (always one of Hollywood's finest) that it's impossible not to love.

Ray Kinsella (Costner) has had a thorough but pretty normal life. After growing up with his baseball-obsessed father and eventually desperate to escape him after years of not getting along, he goes to college, gets caught up in the 1960s Berkeley movement, meets his wife and settles down.

Moving to a rural Iowa with his young family to the farm they've bought on a whim, two things happen. One, he starts to feel like his time for being spontaneous and doing thing to surprise himself is running out (having seen his father get old and die after living an uneventful life), and two, a phantom voice whispers to him while walking in his cornfield one evening, delivering the immortal line that's been referenced thoroughly across popular culture ever since (mostly in editorials about website development) ; 'If you build it, he will come.'

Battling his own belief that he's gone nuts but with the full support of his spirited, impish wife Annie (Madigan), he builds the field and waits. When the old Chicago Black Sox - led by the legendary shoeless Joe Jackson (Liotta) - start coming back from the dead to play on his diamond, Ray and his family share in the magic of it all while financial pressures bought on by building the field threaten to bring their lives crumbling down.

When more messages arrive, Ray is moved to embark on a quest across the country involving an iconic 1960s-era writer (Jones) and the spirit of a potential baseball legend turned children's doctor (Lancaster) while Annie tries to keep the bank at bay back home.

You wonder where the whole thing's going, and thankfully this is a Hollywood story and not a European arthouse navel-gazer, and the quest is for a very specific reason that finally reveals itself.

The whole thing is touching because of the enthusiasm of the performances, the old fashioned focus on the characters and the heartstrings-plucking soundtrack, and it's all delivered with a touch of magical whimsy that mostly remains unexplained only because it's about the magic and not the reason.

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