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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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Home Alone

Macaulay Culkin was the shit. If there was ever a case for developing anti-growth hormones, it would be to keep him from reaching puberty. I’m sure Michael Jackson would agree. Home Alone is an awesome movie, essential viewing for any happy childhood. It’s they story of 8-year old Kevin McCallister who is accidently left home alone when his family goes to Paris for Christmas vacation. Chris Columbus directs and John Hughes produced and wrote this family favorite.

Kevin is kind of a brat, but he is picked on and excluded by his large family. He makes a wish that his family would disappear, and instead they totally forget about him and leave for an amazing vacation without him. At first he’s ok with it and has fun doing whatever he wants without anybody telling him what to do. Too bad Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, a.k.a. Harry and Marv, a.k.a. the Wet Bandits decide to loot his neighborhood, including Kevin’s house. Kevin decides that it’s time for him to man up and defend his house, and so he devises a crazy plan that uses tons of booby traps and with a little luck he disrupts their plans and saves Christmas.

John Heard and Catherine O’Hara play Kevin’s parents. They have a big family and don’t always have time for Kevin. They love him though. They have to. Catherine O’Hara is Kate McCallister, the frantic mom who would sell her soul to the Devil himself just to get back to her son. There could be a spinoff about Home Alone from her POV. She left her son home alone, she realizes it halfway to Paris, and spends the next few days bartering her way from airport to airport, bumming rides, and essentially doing whatever she can to get home. She even hangs out with John Candy and his Polka buddies.

There is an actual story, a real plot… but I think that the booby trap/house raid was thought of first, and then they built the movie around that. The booby traps are very elaborate and obviously planned out. The whole plot of leaving Kevin home alone is just an excuse to have a kid physically abuse two bad guys. The police are a joke; they don’t do anything to help Kevin. The Santa Claus knows that a little kid is all alone on Christmas Eve, just wishing for his parents to come home. He even knows his address and does nothing to help. The pizza guy thinks he got shot at, knows the address, and doesn’t report it? There are so many adults that Kevin has encounters with, and not one of them is competent enough to recognize that he needs help.

The booby trap/house raid sequence will make you laugh and squirm, especially moments like the nail going into Marv’s foot and Harry’s hand getting branded by the doorknob. I still get shivers down my spine when the Wet Bandits catch Kevin and Harry says he’s going to bite off Kevin’s fingers. It makes everything Kevin did to them justified.

Home Alone was more than a movie growing up. It was a career opportunity. Whenever I was sick or pretending to be sick, it was up to me to defend my house. I must have lived in a decent neighborhood, because I never got my chance to hurt any burglars. At least I could live my dreams through Kevin.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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