The game of baseball holds a special place in my heart. To me it is the perfect game, molding athletic ability and strategy in a way that no other game does. The sport has always been sort of a mixed bag on the big screen. For every film that understands the game and its characters (such as Field Of Dreams), there is a Major League: Back To The Minors.
Just as the playoffs are about to begin, Mr. 3000 is hitting theaters. The film is Bernie Mac’s first shot at carrying a film on hiss shoulders, and I was anxious to see how it would play out. I’ve always considered him to be a gifted comedian, and his smaller roles in films such as Ocean’s Eleven have, on the whole, been successful.
In the film Mac plays a Stan Ross, an egocentric ballplayer who has just hit his 3000th hit at the beginning of the film (or so he thinks). This virtually guarantees him enshrinement at Cooperstown, and upon accomplishing the feat, he retires – right as his team, the Milwaukee Brewers, are in the hunt for the playoffs. He is not respected by the fans, to say the least.
Things aren’t as they seem as an error is discovered in Ross’ stats, just as his number has been retired and he is eying Cooperstown. It turns out he only has 2,997 hits due to a mishap with a game called for curfew in the mid-1980’s. Upon hearing of thee snafu, Ross elects to enter the Majors again to get his record…at the age of 47.
Mac does a valiant job with the material, making Stan Ross someone we can both identify with and sometimes loathe at the same time. He seems restricted by the PG-13 rating at times, but fortunately that does not interfere too much with the flow of the story. He steps up to the plate, if you will (*rimshot*).
Perhaps what struck me most about Mr. 3000 was how seriously it took what happens to an aging star. The film doesn’t make the mistake of having everything that happens off the field be banter-filled and unconvincing. The “love story” involving Stan’s desperate attempts to convince an ESPN reporter/ex-lover (Angela Bassett) is well done and not overly sappy. Sure there are the goon teammates in the clubhouse, as well as a trash-talking sausage mascot, but it all somehow comes together in the end.
Mr. 3000 by no means competes with Field of Dreams or Bull Durham, but it is a solidly enjoyable early Autumn baseball film, and just in time for the MLB playoffs. Bernie Mac proves that he can carry a film and produce likable, multi-layered characters. This is an enjoyable film with some great laughs, nothing more and nothing less.
Studio: Buena Vista Pictures
Length: 104 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for sexual content and language.
Theatrical Release: September 17, 2004
Directed by: Charles Stone III
Written by: Eric Champnella & Keith Mitchell & Howard Gould.
Cast: Bernie Mac, Angela Bassett, Michael Rispoli, Brian J. White, Ian Anthony Dale, Evan Jones