by David Cornelius
If the idea of a light Bernie Mac baseball comedy sounds appealing to you, then you very well might find a innocuous good time in “Mr. 3000.” But here’s the catch: it’s not really much of a comedy. Not much of a drama, either. It’s something that goes through the motions of being a movie without really bothering to make it all the way through.Mac plays Stan Ross, star hitter for the Milwaukee Brewers, a man who’s so full of himself that nine years ago he retired from baseball the day he made his 3000th base hit - the same day, by the way, that he stole the ball from the kid who nabbed it, which sounds like a horrible thing to do until you remember how many real-life ballplayers have done the same thing. (Oh, that’s right… it’s still a horrible thing to do. Damn, sports stars can sure suck ass sometimes.) So yeah, Stan’s a royal prick, but we’re supposed to like him because he’s Bernie Mac. And oddly enough, we do kinda like him, despite ourselves.
"Like a preseason game, this one doesn't really matter much."
Anyway, jump ahead nine years, when it’s discovered that there was a stats error, and Mr. 3000 actually has only 2,997 hits. This won’t stand, of course, for reasons important only to the plot, and so Stan demands to return to the Brewers to finish the current season and get his three hits. The team owner (Chris Noth) says OK, since it’s such a great publicity stunt.
Ten dollars goes to anyone unable to figure out what happens next. No takers? I thought so. You’d be right to assume that the arrogant Stan starts off with an embarrassing slump, to the delight of his teammates, who don’t like the new arrangement. But then Stan learns to love the game again and become a team player, and his heart grows three sizes that day, etc., etc. And, of course, the 3000th hit all comes down to the last game of the season. Eh.
I was surprised to discover how much of “Mr. 3000” reminded me of the wonderful “Little Big League,” in which a junior high kid inherits the Minnesota Twins. That film, perhaps the most shamefully overlooked baseball picture of the 1990s, was overflowing with heart and charm, so even when a joke stalled or things got a little extra sappy, you didn’t mind, since you were so taken by the story. In “Mr. 3000,” however, there’s zero charm and very little heart, mostly because the script can never figure out when we’re supposed to love Stan and when we’re supposed to hate him. “Big League” got it right by making its main character lovable throughout; it was a secondary character who had to learn to become a team player, thus setting a goal for our hero. Stan, however, is so uneven in terms of likability that whenever the movie asks us to root for him, we’re not too sure we want to. Sure, he’s Bernie Mac, and it’s very easy to root for Bernie Mac, but Stan does things so selfishly that we just don’t care.
It would be different if Stan’s wickedness were more exaggerated (as Mac was in “Bad Santa”), but the movie takes itself so desperately seriously that his turn from Bad Stan to Good Stan is met with only the rawest saccharine. Director Charles Stone III (“Drumline,” “Paid In Full”) oversells Stan’s transformation, turning the entire second half into a bland drama. Considering how few and far between the comedy was before the halfway point, we don’t notice the change so much, but it’s still too much to ask us to wipe a tear for this rather forgettable effort.What bugs me most is how wasted Mac is in the role. Here was a great chance to let the comic loose and turn the film into a rabid parody of aging athlete dramas such as “The Natural” and “The Rookie.” With Mac in the lead, we could have had a baseball movie with bite, something like a modern day “Major League.” Instead, we get a toothless, by-the-numbers sports flick that assumes a few heartfelt speeches and some swelling music is all you need. It is, in many ways, just like a Brewers game itself: not interesting, not important, and not much fun.
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originally posted: 02/01/05 15:56:20