I have to admit to some skepticism toward a G rated film from Disney. In fact in recent years theyve been far and few between as the studios have largely steered away from releasing them for fear theyll be met with a tepid response at the box office. However recent successes like The Princess Diaries have proven otherwise, giving new life to the previous G curse. I was pleasantly surprised by The Rookie, based on the true story of major league wash out Jim Morris who gets another shot at the big leagues.
The main reason for the films success lies with the star Dennis Quaid. As a high school teacher and baseball coach with his best days behind him, Mr. Quaid is the portrait of lost hope and resignation. Twelve years ago he lost his shot at the majors when an injury led to shoulder surgery. Now hes married with kids, teaching chemistry and trying to inspire his last place baseball team. They agree to make a run at the play-offs if hell give the pro scouts one more look.
Mr. Quaid shines in this kind of role. In fact hes done it before in Everybodys All American and Any Given Sunday. Regardless of the familiar terrain he manages to bring a sincerity to the role. You cant help but root for the old guy as he hustles in the field with all the earnest twenty-somethings, all trying to earn their shot at the majors.
The excellent Rachel Griffiths has the largely thankless role of Morriss wife and biggest fan. Reluctant at first, his long shot will mean sacrifices for the family and the kids will miss their dad, she folds like a cheap card table. And thats okay. Its her role and she handles it with dignity, managing to give a wry smile and voice support while conveying her uneasiness. His wife and family ultimately become Morriss source of inspiration, as they should.
The high school team he coaches is a source of inspiration as well as amusement. At first theyre merely a rag tag collection, purely bad news on the field. They play baseball in a football town and feel like third class citizens. They show some personality and spirit and generally give an ensemble performance, playing as a team on the field and on the screen. The coaching goes both ways, they give as good as they get. It was nice to see a group of kids that could have realistic feelings.
Like most men Jim Morris has a complicated relationship with his father, played by Brian Cox. His fathers career in the Army forced the family to move often and Jims baseball aspirations usually suffered. A conservative man, he always advised Jim to give up on his dream of baseball. Naturally theyre way overdue for some father and son bonding. It happens but is handled in a tasteful way, no corny, gut wrenching confessions.
The Rookie was directed by John Lee Hancock, whos had a fairly unremarkable career up to this point, with one exception. In 1993 he wrote the script for a film directed by Clint Eastwood called A Perfect World. It was largely, and unfairly seen as a star vehicle for Kevin Costner and for the most part overlooked. Like Jim Morris it deserves a second shot. Im Erik Petersen for Movie Magazine.
© 2002 - Erik Petersen - Air Date: 3/27/02
USA - 2002