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 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