Starring Dennis Quaid et al
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Steve, . 26 March 2003
A film review by Steve Rhodes
Copyright 2002 Steve Rhodes
Disney's THE ROOKIE is that rare cinematic treat, a G-rated family film that really is good for all ages, not just the youngsters. It is also quite surprising since it is a slow-paced movie that, nevertheless, has had great box office results even among the heavily-prone-to-fidget set and their parents.
The story's draw is obvious, being a true story that speaks to everyone. It concerns a middle age guy named Jimmy Morris, who, in the span of a few months, went from teaching high school science at a small, dusty West Texas town to pitching in the major leagues. It is the sort of tale that would be ridiculed as hopeless hokum were it not true.
While the film's casting is quite good, none is better than Dennis Quaid as Jimmy Morris. Quaid's athletic skills are convincing, and he makes it easy to vicariously experience his aches and pains, both physical and mental. Rachel Griffiths, as his wife, does a lot with a very underwritten role. Angus T. Jones is adorable and funny as Jimmy's 8-year-old son and his number one fan. Brian Cox, as Jim Morris, Sr., is chillingly effective as the father who is too busy for his son and never even tries to understand his son's dreams. Jim Sr. is full of advice, all bad. In one of these typical homilies he tells his son, "There is more to life than baseball. The sooner you find that out, the better." This thought for the day comes when young Jimmy has just lost his most treasured possession, his baseball glove.
The story concerns a coach who, on a lark, makes a pact with his players. Morris, when he isn't teaching science, coaches a high school baseball team that has won only three games in the last three years. When the team finds out that their coach has a fast ball that lights up catchers' gloves, they make him a deal. If they win district -- What chance could there be of that? -- then he has to agree to try out for the pros. You guessed it. They go on to win district, and he gets a professional baseball job. (So you expect Disney to green light a project about a middle age guy who tries and fails?)
Director John Lee Hancock and cinematographer John Schwartzman paint their story by focusing on the eyes. Especially in the baseball games, the camera lingers on the eyes, which express determination and longing better than any other part of the body. Your eyes, too, will be affected by the movie. Even though you know where the story is headed, it is nearly impossible not to shed a few tears when it gets there.
The movie goes through several sections that are somewhat surprising. One of the more unusual occurs when Jimmy grinds away in the minor leagues. This section might be titled something like, "Be careful what you wish for." If we didn't know the ending, we might begin to suspect the movie was going to evolve into a major downer. But, not to despair, success will eventually be at hand and you'll be cheering with joy for Jimmy just like everyone from his hometown.
THE ROOKIE runs 2:09. It is rated G and would be a great choice for all ages.
My son Jeffrey, age 13, gave it *** 1/2. He liked it all from the casting to the story itself. He thought the editing of the baseball sequences was particularly effective.
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