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Overall Rating
4.42

Awesome: 45.45%
Worth A Look50.91%
Just Average: 3.64%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 0%

4 reviews, 31 user ratings


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Rookie, The (2002)
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by Erik Childress

"The Best Baseball Film To Hit Theaters Since 'Field Of Dreams'"
5 stars

This game…this field…is a part of our past Ray. It reminds us that once all was good…and could be again. If that speech isn’t instantly recognizable to you, then perhaps baseball isn’t your cup of beer, or at least movies about the sport. Films about our national pasttime or really any professional athletic activity are either going to be (1) played for laughs, (2) exposed for the dark underbelly of drugs and violence or (3) stirred up into a syrupy stew of an underdog cheer rally. Now along comes The Rookie, a film that completely sidesteps most of the big three to become a wonderfully heartwarming tale about the love of the game and fulfilling your dreams.

One look at that last statement and its easy to dismiss The Rookie as another Walt Disney cliché package a la Remember The Titans (which despite its criticisms I believe to be one of the better sports movies of the last decade.) That may not sweeten the pot for the skeptics in the audience, but I plan to convince that Disney’s latest effort is not only far superior to their football scrimmage, but is the best film about baseball to hit theaters since Field of Dreams.

Dennis Quaid stars as real-life pitcher Jim Morris whose childhood dreams of playing baseball were often trampled by constant relocation and later injuries. The film is told in three sections, with the first 20 minutes tracing his adolescence and the relationship with his father (Brian Cox) whose career in the military featured several transfers, much to the chagrin of the family. Flash-forward several years to the adult Jim, living in Texas and married to the loving Lorrie (the amazing Rachel Griffiths), who teaches science at the local high school as well as coach their baseball team.

Apparently the Texas Rangers aren’t held in as high esteem as the Dallas Cowboys as a barrage of references are made to why the team’s field is devoid of grass. Having only won a single game for each of the past three years, their yellow uniforms may lull you into believing you’re about to see another chapter in The Bad News Bears saga. But when the team’s catcher gets a red-handed glimpse of Jimbo’s heat, the players turn the coach’s “fulfill your dream” speech back on him. If they win the District, he has to go to a big-league tryout.

It won’t take a big-league film scout to see the path on where this is all headed, especially if you remember the story, not so long ago in 1999. But director John Lee Hancock (screenwriter of A Perfect World and Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil) and screenwriter Mike Rich (Finding Forrester) manage something quite extraordinary. By taking their time (120+ minutes) to unfold this story and keeping the focus on Jim in nearly every scene, the emotional investment builds like a slow-filling well that manages to punch more than a couple sieves in our heart without a bombastic cue-inducing musical score.

Of course The Rookie has its share of cliches, but aspiring (and untalented) screenwriters should observe the way they are handled here. Aside from reinventing them the way Cameron Crowe frequently does, the best way to have your cliché and eat it too is to make audiences forget about them. Hancock and Rich don’t overtly focus on the setups that will payoff later with endless close-ups and melodramatic dialogue. There is so much going on and all the elements so thoroughly crafted, that we stay with Jim and his story and not the nitpicky elements that distract from the big picture.

With films like The Hurricane and A Beautiful Mind receiving the torrid backlash treatment for their science-fiction like accounts of true stories, audiences should be most pleased and surprised at how fateful the movie is to factual events. Even the hardest of hardcore skeptics will be amazed at how little creative license was used in what would normally seem like the tailor-made “Hollywood movie” moments. They actually happened.

The Rookie certainly plays the Field of Dreams card with its treatment of generations of fathers and sons and even lifts two of the biggest tear-inducing words in history. It’s amazing that some studio executive didn’t butt in to trim off the first 20 minutes or at least cut it down to the bare essentials of the standard screenwriting 101 setup of Stern Dad, Unhappy Kid. By containing it the way it is, we can understand how Jim grew up to still call his dad “Sir” as Brian Cox brings depth to what could have been a thankless role. Rachel Griffiths couldn’t be lovelier as the wife looking to give her support, yet fearing for her husband’s health. Her reasoning behind convincing Jim to go for it is as simple as it is immaculate. Even the treatment of Jim’s wide-eyed 8-year old son (Angus T. Jones) couldn’t be handled more faultlessly. He isn’t there to make his gush at his cutesy demeanor nor used as comic relief, throwing tantrums like Will Patton’s daughter in Remember the Titans. He just loves seeing his daddy play baseball.

But this movie rests on the shoulders of Dennis Quaid. As someone who grew up with his work from masterpieces like The Right Stuff to all-around favorites like Innerspace, Quaid is one those underappreciated actors whom I always root for and continues to do great character work, but never quite rose to that next echelon. In The Rookie, Quaid delivers one of his best performances, balancing a working-class mentality as a man doubting his potential to fulfill his dreams with the support and approval he seeks from his family. There is a phone conversation that takes place late in the film that is handled so perfectly by all the actors involved that it deserves to be Quaid’s Oscar clip next year.

After seeing Billy Crystal’s humanized yet magical treatment of the Maris/Mantle home run race last year in HBO’s 61*, (one of the best films of last year and one of the best baseball films, period) I didn’t expect to see another great baseball film this soon. Live-action “G”-rated Disney flicks tend to give viewers more pause than hearing that Darryl Strawberry is clean. Yet like their release of The Straight Story in 1999, this is another beautifully told, heartfelt story that transcends the syrup bottle instead of refilling it. Sure, it would have been nice to learn a little more about those middle twenty years of Jim’s on-and-off investment with baseball or even a scene between him and his team’s hurler about the art of pitching, but this is an inspirational story for the whole family in the vein of classic underdog stories like Rocky, Hoosiers, Rudy and The Natural. The Rookie has certainly earned a place on that roster.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=5843&reviewer=198
originally posted: 03/27/02 01:22:28
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User Comments

4/13/10 Billl Flowers I love baseball and this movie affirms that love. 5 stars
10/12/08 Shaun Wallner Great Kids Film! 5 stars
5/25/08 PAUL SHORTT A FINE FAMILY FILM ABOUT SOMEONE ACHIEVING HIS DREAM 4 stars
3/24/08 Carol I Love Dennis Quaid in anything, wonderful in The Rookie 5 stars
7/29/07 David A great movie. It reminds us never to give up on our dreams! 5 stars
12/28/06 Jennifer Raven funny and interesting. love it! except for Dennis quaid and his weird way of talking 4 stars
10/18/06 Rachel It was a fantastic movie 5 stars
10/16/06 AJ Muller Quaid nails another winner - a sweet,moving and thrilling flick 4 stars
11/21/04 R.W. Welch It ain't over til it's over. Nicely done fact-based bb pic tho a tad long for the material. 4 stars
11/21/04 Julia Lorbeer this is a movie you can watch with your kids and enjoy it just as much as they do. 5 stars
11/12/04 Wes A great movie for the entire family to see together 4 stars
10/29/04 HL Sweet! Quaid makes this wonderful...must see! 5 stars
5/30/04 Frazier A true story and account of dreams that do come true 5 stars
9/22/03 Buck Wonderful, true sports drama. Inspiring. 5 stars
6/02/03 Jack Sommersby Familiar yet brimming with much heart and conviction and spirit. Quaid is perfection. 4 stars
3/20/03 May Q. Horney Watched it with considerable interest, but can't get into seeing it again. 4 stars
10/01/02 snowconehead I guess there's something wrong with me, I couldn't find a plot at all here 3 stars
7/11/02 Sheila Evans Is human hair really a deer-repellent? 4 stars
6/07/02 ownerofdajoint all baseball junkies should see this flick.life throws curves/ sometimes things go our way 5 stars
6/01/02 Chris I was excepting sugar sweet what I got was a family film for the smart family. A home run. 5 stars
5/16/02 Jacqui M. Is teaching high school science less important than playing baseball????? 3 stars
4/29/02 Janx Excellent baseball movie. I want to ram Dennis Quiad with my love tool 5 stars
4/13/02 Daniela Great movie, good acting, good message. 5 stars
4/13/02 Suzz great baseball story 4 stars
4/11/02 Rockitman007 Second only to "Field of Dreams" 5 stars
4/03/02 Linda I loved this movie! It's a very moving and powerful story, and Dennis Quaid is great in it 5 stars
4/02/02 David Asa Brown the best baseball movie since the sandlot or field of dreams 5 stars
4/01/02 Paul Taylor Simply put, a great film! 5 stars
4/01/02 Melissa in NYC A sweet film that everyone will enjoy (a little too long for small kiddies though). 5 stars
3/30/02 Teresa A nice family film. You can take Grandma. 4 stars
3/28/02 J in Austin DQ can't play baseball worth a lick - the good news is, he doesn't really play at all... 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  29-Mar-2002

UK
  N/A

Australia
  27-Mar-2003




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