Tag Archives: baseball movie

The Natural (film)

The Natural is widely heralded as the best baseball movie of all time. I’ve seen it. It’s not. It’s a very good baseball movie, worthy of being on a Top Five list, but it has too many flaws to be the best. Robert Redford stars as Roy Hobbs, an athlete who simply wants to be the best baseball player who ever lived. Barry Levinson directs this adaptation of Bernard Malamud’s novel and makes a few changes (like a whole different ending).

            Roy Hobbs is on the cusp of being a professional baseball player, but things go south when he gets shot in the stomach by a crazy lady and almost dies. 16 years later, Hobbs becomes a 35-year-old rookie for the fictional New York Knights. That’s a red flag right there. You can’t be the best baseball movie if your main character doesn’t even play for a real team.

In the beginning of the movie, a young Roy Hobbs watches his dad die of a heart attack by a tree. Then lightening strikes the tree and splits it and Roy makes a bat from the wood of his father’s death tree. Somehow this makes it a lucky bat, and Roy uses it to become a fierce homerun hitter and become the spark plug that revitalizes his losing team and makes them a contender for the pennant.

             Of course there’s lots of stuff that happens. Roy must choose between a shady seductress (Kim Basinger) or rekindling a relationship with his ex-girlfriend (Glenn Close). Spoiler alert: he choses Glenn Close. I don’t know why. Kim Basinger’s character might have been slightly evil and murderous, but she still looks like Kim Basinger. Glenn Close looks like a man. And she has a man’s name. It makes you think.

I read some review where they say that this movie avoids clichés. That’s bullshit. The whole damn movie is a cliché. The new guy with talent has to earn the respect of his coach and teammates. He gets a chance to play and makes the most of it. Everything is going great and then something happens and things aren’t going so great. But he still finds the courage and strength to play in one more game. And then he hits a gamewinning homerun and is hailed as a hero. And then he finds satisfaction outside of the stadium with his family.

            This is a good baseball movie. But it’s not the best. Bull Durham is better. Major League is better. A League of Their Own is better. The Sandlot is better. Even Little Big League is better. At least that movie had plays and situations and trivia. And real baseball teams.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Rookie of the Year (film)

Funky buttloving, the early 90’s had a bunch of family movies about baseball. There was Little Big League, Angels in the Outfield, and The Sandlot. There was also Rookie of the Year, the tale of twelve-year-old Henry Rowengarter who gains the ability to throw 100 mph fastballs after he breaks his arm in a freak accident. Thomas Ian Nichols plays the title character, Gary Busey plays an aging pitcher, and Daniel Stern plays the annoying pitching coach and directs the movie as well. If you didn’t see this movie when you were a kid, you probably think that this movie sucks. And you’re right. It does.

Henry Rowengarter is an average kid who loves baseball. The problem is that he sucks at baseball. He spends his days hanging out with his two friends just having fun and being a kid. He lives with his single mom, and is annoyed with her new douchey boyfriend, Jack. Henry is the worst player on his Little League team and gets made fun of. One day he breaks his arm. When he finally gets his cast removed, the tendons in his arm have constricted, which gives him the awesome side effect of being able to throw a baseball at a hundred miles an hour.

Henry discovers his new ability when he’s at a Cubs game and the visiting team hits a homerun and he throws the ball back. The Cubs are a little desperate for talent and attendance and hiring a kid with an arm like Nolan Ryan would fill the seats. Jack sees dollar signs and becomes Henry’s agent.

Henry joins the Chicago Cubs without being drafted or playing a single game in the minors or even being of legal age. In his first game he comes in to relieve his pitching idol, the fading Chet “Rocket” Steadman (Gary Busey). He gives up a homerun, hits a batter, and throws a wild pitch on his first three professional pitches, but ends up with the win.

With the help of Rocket and the weird pitching coach Phil Brickma (Daniel Stern), Henry learns how to pitch. He starts to get sucked into the glamorous lifestyle of being a professional prepubescent pitcher and starts neglecting his friends. His sleazy agent hatches a plot to trade Henry to the Yankees, but Henry finds out and fires him. Henry realizes that he was being a dick and makes up with his friends and decides that this will be his last season.

Before he quits he wants to send his team to the playoffs. He comes in to relieve his idol in the final game of the season. He pitches well, but then he slips on a ball and loses his arm. He uses his wits and cheap tactics and an illegal pitch to retire the side and send the Cubs into the post season. The movie jumps ahead to Henry winning a Little League game and pumping his fist in celebration, and the movie ends on a close-up of his World Series ring. I guess the Cubbies did it. Even if it’s fictional you gotta take what you can get.

For a movie about baseball, they sure don’t respect it. You never see Henry take a warm-up pitch. You hardly see any real baseball plays. You just see a bunch of obvious discrepancies, like Henry isn’t even eligible to play, and he’s not eligible to win Rookie of the Year because he joined the Cubs in August and you have to pitch at least fifty innings to qualify. Nitpicky stuff, but other movies like Little Big League pay attention to baseball rules and that’s kind of important in a fucking baseball movie.

Gary Busey is a great actor and he has a decent appearance as Chet “Rocket” Steadman. His character is gruff and surly in the beginning but warms up to Henry and become a father figure to him. His great transitional scene is his moment on the mound with Henry where he talks about “hattitude” in a rambling attempt at a pep talk. Daniel Stern does a pretty good job directing this movie, but he insists on ruining it by playing the most annoying character in cinematic history. He is desperately trying to be funny, but even kids can tell when an actor is phoning it in. I know it’s a kid’s movie, but you can at least try to portray a character with a little respect for the audience. John Candy plays the announcer for the Cubs. It’s not his best role, but John Candy is always a plus. He made movies better just with his presence.

This movie is kind of lame. You might have fond memories of it, but if you study this film for its artistic merit you wont find any. It has its moments, but so do most movies. If this is your favorite 90’s kid’s baseball movie, you have obviously never seen The Sandlot.

Critically Rated at 10/17

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The Babe (film)

John Goodman stars as the great George Herman “Babe” Ruth in director Arthur Hiller’s The Babe. Babe Ruth is an American icon; many consider him to be the best baseball player of all time. He was larger than life and lived like he was. This biopic covers the rise and fall of his career, playing as much to the myths as to the facts. There’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die. And yes, I did steal that from The Sandlot.

The Babe Movie Poster

The movie starts with Babe’s dad giving up on him and dropping him off at St. Mary’s, an orphanage/reformatory. He’s a chubby troublemaker who gets picked on constantly. That all changes when he picks up a bat and discovers that he was made to play baseball. He’s a phenomenal pitcher and has a powerful bat. In a few short years he catches the eye of the Baltimore Orioles and leaves the orphanage to conquer the world.

Babe is too big for Baltimore, and he goes to the Boston Red Sox. Babe is too big for Boston, and he goes to the Yankees. The bulk of the film takes place in his Red Sox and Yankee days. They explore how success has gone to his head. Babe wants it all, and he can suddenly have it all, and since he’s just a big kid he goes nuts. He has a good heart, but he’s brash and impulsive and hurts people without meaning to.

John Goodman does a decent job as the Babe. He is a little too old to be playing him, and he’s also too fat. Most actors would have to gain weight to play him, but Goodman could stand to lose a few pounds. There are dozens of actors that could have done a better job. Babe Ruth was larger than life, it was his exploits that make the movie interesting, not Goodman’s portrayal of him.

The Babe is like a kid. He has no manners. He is blatant and just says whatever is on his mind. He has no social skills; he uses other people’s toothbrushes and farts at fancy parties. He wears his heart on his sleeve, he will be ecstatic one moment and having a tantrum the next. He has a habit of calling people Dad, a sign of his broken childhood.

Trini Alvarado plays Helen, Babe’s first wife. He loves her, and marries her, and starts a family with her. And he wants to be with her. But he can’t. He can’t be contained. He wants to party and go to the city, not stay at home and play house. So he goes out, and girls throw themselves at him, and people kiss his ass, and he feels happy. But he hurts Helen over and over again. They separate, but the whole relationship shows how damaged Babe is. Eventually he finds love again, and this time Claire (Kelly McGillis) is able to handle him, she acts like a parent figure and gives him rules and boundaries.

They humanize Babe off the field, and they embellish what he did on it. He never hit a popup so high that he got an infield home run. He never hit 2 homeruns for a sick kid in the hospital. He might have called his shot, but it was not that dramatic. He hit three homers in one game in the twilight of his career as a Brave, but he didn’t retire right after.

People often debate about who the best baseball player of all time is. Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Lou Gehrig, and Stan Musial are all in discussion, but Babe Ruth was a 100% natural talent. He singlehandedly changed the game. Not only is he arguably the best homerun hitter of all time, but he’s also considered one of the best pitchers of all time.

This is not a great baseball movie. It’s not really a good movie either. It’s just an average movie made about a great man. I’m not one for remakes, but I think we can do a better Babe Ruth movie. It doesn’t have to be 3D or in IMAX, but Americans love baseball and Americans love Babe Ruth. So anyway, this is an alright movie, it could have been better.

Critically Rated at 9/17

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For Love of the Game

Kevin Costner did a lot of baseball movies. Over fifty-seven by some estimates. In this one he plays an aging pitcher throwing the last game of his career. Sam Rami directs it, and it is really down to earth, especially considering some of the crazy stuff he’s done in the past. The film flashes back and forth between fictional Detroit Tigers pitcher Billy Chapel facing the New York Yankees and key moments in Chapel’s relationship with his on again/off again girlfriend, Jane.

John C. Reilly plays Gus, Billy’s reliable catcher and friend. J.K. Simmons plays the Tigers manager. Brian Cox plays the owner. Jena Malone plays Heather, Jane’s daughter. And the always sexy Kelly Preston plays Jane Aubrey, the sexy love interest.

The baseball playing is really just a trick to lure guys into watching this film. It’s really a chick flick. It’s bearable because of the baseball to an extent, but this is a love story. There is way more about love and relationships than there is cool stuff about baseball. And there’s no nude scenes, so the love story part isn’t that cool.

Vin Scully plays himself. For some reason he is announcing a game between the Yankees and the Tigers. It doesn’t matter that he’s the announcer for the LA Dodgers. Whatever. It’s dumb to get permission to use real teams from the MLB and then have the wrong announcer from the wrong side of the country calling a game for the wrong league.

I’ve seen a lot of Kevin Costner baseball movies. This one probably isn’t even in his top twenty. If you see it while channel surfing, it’s ok to watch it. Just don’t go out of your way to see this movie. You aren’t missing much.

There are worse chick flicks than this. But just remember that it is a chick flick pretending to be a baseball movie. That’s manipulative Hollywood marketing. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Oh by the way, he pitches a perfect game and gets the girl. Life is great sometimes.

Critically Rated at 11/17

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