Babe’s A Goodman

Babe's gonna sock you a home run, will that make you feel better Johnny - Babe Ruth

John Goodman as Babe Ruth in The Babe

Not to be confused with the movie about a little pig "The Babe" was released back in 1992 and is a biopic about baseball legend George Herman 'Babe' Ruth, played by the lovable John Goodman. It's an interesting biopic because firstly it focuses on Babe Ruth's life away from the baseball rather than just his legendary career and although at times is glossy in praise of the legendary star it's also quite refreshing that it shows some of his more unsavoury moments. But as with many biopics "The Babe" suffers from the use of a lot of poetic licence and at times is quite fabricated, altering the truth to make for a more exciting movie.

Although I've never been a huge baseball fan for some reason I do enjoy "The Babe", which pretty much puts me at the opposite end of opinion to most critics. Whilst not being Goodman's greatest performance and the fact that the storyline is at times fabricated to make for a more exciting movie, there is something about the movie which is entertaining. The sense of nostalgia, the insight into a legends life, even the fabricated storyline it actually works to make it entertaining even if in the end "The Babe" becomes more a dramatized account of the baseball legends life rather than a true biopic.

Kelly McGillis as Claire Hodgson Ruth in The Babe

The storyline is surprisingly entertaining as it focuses on The Babe's exploits away from the field as much as it does on his legendary career. In many ways it doesn't fall into the usual trap of sanitizing the life of a legend by glossing over the bad bits, in fact it is these bits which makes "The Babe" more interesting. Some could say that Ruth was bi-polar with his nice public side yet also a childish side which ended up causing many issues in his life. But it does have problems and that is the huge amount of poetic licence used to make it entertaining. Events such as when Ruth hit his first home run is moved, as is the legendary calling of the shot and the myth surrounding the promise of hitting 2 home runs for a sick boy. There is a lot of fabrication going on and from a true biopic point of view then "The Babe" is disappointing but from an entertainment point of view it works.

Making "The Babe" work so well for me is the wonderful creation of the era. Not only do the set designs and costumes build up the period but there is an atmosphere about it which really helps to take you back in time. It may not have the finesse of some big budget era pieces but in some ways the rawness of it works in its favour helping to create a real sense of being there.

Whilst this is by no means John Goodman's best performance he doesn't actually do a terrible job when it comes to his portray of the baseball legend. There are things which are wrong such as at times the character comes over as a little too funny but then there is the good which is the tenderness which Goodman creates in certain scenes, such as the scene where he dishes out shoes to a group of poor children. It is an uneven performance and again from an entertainment point of view works but from the recreating a legend doesn't quite do it justice.

Alongside Goodman are Trini Alvarado as his first wife Helen and Kelly McGillis as his second wife Clare. Both of which are well played and add substance to the movie, but are never really explored to their extent. The same can be said of Ruth's relationship to fellow baseball player Jumpin' Joe Dugan, played by Bruce Boxleitner, although critical to the film it's never exploited to its full potential.

What this all boils down to is that if you are a fan of baseball and already are aware of the legendary baseball star then "The Babe" will most likely be a disappointment. With its fabricated storyline and uneven performance it just doesn't work as a real biopic. But for those who are just after some entertainment then "The Babe" works, the storyline is enjoyable as are the performances and the recreation of the era sets it off. So basically if you want a real biopic of Babe Ruth then stay clear but if you just want an entertaining baseball movie then give it a go.

Tags: Baseball Movies

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