There is usually only one baseball movie a year, and 2002's is The Rookie, starring Dennis Quaid. If For Love of the Game was okay, and Hardball was mediocre-decent, then The Rookie is the best movie to come along since Field of Dreams. If anything, Quaid has taken the reigns over from Kevin Costner, and mightily easy at that.
The Rookie is about Jim Morris, a high school chemistry teacher who becomes the oldest rookie in Major League history. After leading his high school team to a winning season, he fulfills his promise and tries out for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Yes, the movie is based on a man who only retired last year, but the movie is surprisingly well done and thought out. From beginning to end The Rookie is strong and dramatic, funny and moving.
Quaid turns in one of the best performances of his career, although I'm sure some will say he doesn't sway too far from his other characters. Nevertheless, he creates a likeable, fun character that drives the movie forward, surrounded by a good supporting cast, especially Angus T. Jones, his young son. Jones isn't the next Haley Joel Osmet, but he brings a natural warmth to the screen and really won over the crowd.
The movie is entertaining from beginning to end. In a way it is two stories rolled into one; the first is about a coach motivating his awful team to victory, a la The Mighty Ducks and a thousand other sports pictures, and the second is about a man fulfilling his dream of becoming a big league pitcher. Both stories are well done. Obviously, the first half is slightly more entertaining and a lot funnier, but the second is also moving and still quite fluent.
Really, the only thing that hurts The Rookie is its length. Clocking in at two hours and twenty-some minutes, it is quite long for a baseball movie, and a G-rated film. Lots of parents took their children, and while content-wise anyone can watch it, the story itself is aimed at slightly older audiences. The material and length probably bored the younger children just a little bit.
The Rookie is an amazingly well done picture, and, despite its length, is one of the best movies of 2002 so far.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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