Directed by: Charles Stone II
Starring: Bernie Mac, Angela Bassett, Michael Rispoli, Brian J. White, Paul Sorvino
Mr. 3000 is peculiar.
The film stars comic Bernie Mac, but it's not very funny -- in fact, Mac turns in a solid, yet sedate dramatic performance in his starring debut. Likewise, Mr. 3000 is about how an egocentric smart-mouth develops team spirit, but only a few team players are portrayed. The movie celebrates an aging athlete's struggle for one last shot at glory, but he doesn't actually achieve it. It's a love story that's not very romantic (though maybe that's because it's about adults, not tweens). Lastly, it's a film that Little Leaguers are going to want to see, but in the beginning, there's a spate of inappropriate and unnecessary profanity.
With all that said, after seeing Mr. 3000, you feel good, even though you may well be scratching your head as to why. Here's my take on it: Previews for the film promise much more satisfaction than the movie actually delivers. But the audience wants so much to be inspired, revived and encouraged by Mr. 3000 that viewers will likely fill in the blanks and get those feelings to happen regardless. Thus, Mr. 3000 ends up pleasing the audience in spite of the film's shortcomings.
Ken Hanke doesn't like sports movies, so he's been sticking me with them for the past five years. The result is that I've grown to appreciate the attraction these films have for both sports lovers and groups of all kinds (corporations, churches, volunteers, etc.) who operate on the concept of team playing. With Bernie Mac, an African-American, as the lead, Mr. 3000 widens its appeal -- the audience I viewed the film with was noticeably the most diverse one I'd yet seen in Asheville -- young and old, black and white, parents with children, couples, and lots of guys by themselves. For director Charles Stone II and cinematographer Shane Hurlbut, who teamed up for Drumline in 2002, this could be their second sleeper hit in a row.
Stan "Nitroglycerine" Ross (Mac) is No. 21, a brilliant hitter for the Minneapolis Brewers who's also a mean, selfish jerk. When he reaches 3,000 hits, he retires from baseball, leaving his team in the middle of a pennant struggle. Ross builds a business empire based on the magic number, making himself famous as Mr. 3000.
Nine years later, Ross is a rich bachelor, but still hasn't been voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame because his prima donna behavior so alienated sportswriters. Yet during the nomination process, a counting error is discovered that reveals Ross doesn't have 3,000 hits after all -- he has only 2,997.
"I can't let them take away my legacy," Ross bellows. "Do your thing," his loyal (and only) friend Boca (Michael Rispoli, It Had to Be You) tells him. Seeing a publicity avalanche for their losing team, Brewers promoters openly welcome Ross back.
So at age 47, the determined but paunchy Ross re-enters the game. He discovers a new, somewhat daunting world, with weird things like Pilates and ballet added to the macho physical regimen. Gus (Paul Sorvino, The Cooler), the team manager Ross betrayed so long ago, keeps his silence but maintains his presence. Another echo from Ross' past is his old flame, Mo (Angela Bassett, What's Love Got to Do With It?), who's now a reporter for ESPN assigned to cover his comeback effort. On the new Brewers team is T-Rex (Brian J. White, The Movie Hero), a young star who's as egocentric as Ross was in his own heyday.
In the way of all team-themed movies, Ross realizes that being selfish was stupid and that it's more important to be one of the guys, so he tries to inspire the younger ballplayers. But it's not a straight path to redemption, and that's what gives Mr. 3000 its interesting, albeit fleeting, edge.
Though totally ignoring any outfield action, the movie does present lots of baseball action between pitcher and hitter, and dramatizes more baseball strategy than I've yet seen in a movie. Though young sports fans will love the baseball footage, they'll probably find the rest of the story pointless, so parents need to factor in a fidget quotient.
-- reviewed by Marci Miller