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Friday, June 23, 2017

THE ROOKIE (2002)

Competition is fierce, but Tom Hanks spouting off about ‘No crying in baseball’ (in A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN/’92) may top the charts for the most inaccurate, if highly quotable, line in film. And not only at the movies; imagine an All-Star Game without some tear-clogged anniversary salute. This film, a tru-life fairy tale about a high school science teacher/coach, who missed his shot at the Majors, only to find his pitching form at 37, is a veritable three-hankie male weep-athon . . . and pretty much irresistible. Not a lot of surprises, but neither Mike Rich’s script nor John Lee Hancock’s direction push harder than they have to. In fact, the film is improved by the relative lack of film savvy; bigger skill sets might have curdled sentiment. It’s also helped by an unusual, slightly unwieldy structure: double prologue (local legend; childhood-on-the-move); followed by Two Halves in Three-Acts² (high school team makes good; comeback pitcher makes better). All unexpectedly satisfying; and well played, if admittedly a couple of reels longer than it has to be. (A fault uncorrected in later films by this writer or director.)

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: The film wouldn’t work without Dennis Quaid. Believable as a ball player (is he truly a leftie?), it’s the sort of star presence perf that never gets award traction, especially in a ‘light’ entertainment. But when you’ve earned early fame showing your ASSets (ass & shit-ass grin), you pay a price; and Quaid knows it. He’s long demurred gratuitous ass flashing, though he certainly looks fit enough to get away with it. Lately, he's even shut down the full-bore grin, as if withholding it makes him, ipso facto, a serious actor. But wait here till 1'50", when he hits The Majors, for a welcome re-emergence.

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