Quaid is a Natural in this Invincible Baseball Tale
When you think of baseball movies one actor usually springs to mind that being Kevin Costner, but there are more than a few decent baseball movies which don't feature Costner, one of my favourites being "The Rookie" which stars Dennis Quaid. It's a nice inspirational movie about reaching for your dreams even when the chance seems to have passed, the sort of thing which is the staple of many a sports based movie. Plus being inspired by the true story of Jimmy Morris it has a more personal touch which makes it feel a little less generic and stereotypical.
Having been forced to give up on his dream of becoming a major league baseball star due to injury, Jimmy Morris (Dennis Quaid - Any Given Sunday) settles for the next best thing, coaching the high school team and family life. But Jimmy's team know that he still has it in him despite being in his 30's and so make a pact with him that if they manage to win State he will try out again and reach for his dream.
Being a Walt Disney production and based on a true story "The Rookie" is very much that family friendly inspirational tale the sort which gets churned out once in a while which manages to captivate audiences with it's tale of the underdog basically coming good. In that sense it is quite predictable, the outcome is expected and it would be a strange movie if it didn't leave you with a positive, empowering, feel good ending.
But whilst predictable in that sense "The Rookie" is not in many others and the story doesn't just follow that foreseeable journey from nothing to something, it takes on the personal story as well as the pressure of balancing a chance at the dream with the real world and the relationships it affects. It's by no means heavy or complex in any manner, remember this is a Disney movie, it just adds something a little different to your generic underdog sports movie.
What makes "The Rookie" such a personal favourite is not that it shows a lot of baseball action but it captures that magical side of it, that sort of mysticism which makes it charming. From the opening scene where two nuns basically invest money in an oil field through to the workers playing the game to pass the time, it has that stuff of legends which captures you right from the start. It's that grip on spinning a tale which makes you want to watch despite knowing where it will most likely end. It's also that it achieves its aim; it delivers that empowering inspirational message to never stop reaching for your dreams. In some ways it's like a modern parable, a charming tale with a concealed message which reveals itself fully as it enlightens you.
How accurate the story is I couldn't tell you and to be frank before watching "The Rookie" I couldn't have told you who Jimmy Morris was either. But although being very family friendly it is also believable. The build up with the young Jimmy basically never settling in one place long enough due to his father being in the army is completely believable and beautifully worked. You really get that sense that as a young boy Jimmy had only one passion, that being baseball but also that he felt unloved because of his father's single minded attitude to work and military strictness. This is carried on later and that relationship between Jimmy and his father is a pivotal part of the storyline and one of the reasons why "The Rookie" is not just that generic underdog tale.
It's all the added storylines, the way Jimmy inspires the high school team he coaches and the relationship he has with his own children and wife which makes "The Rookie" stand out. It may feel a little too scripted in places but these are balanced by wonderful moments, scenes which work well because of their simplicity such as the scene when the school team having just won their final game stop all their raucous celebrations to thank their coach. Probably the best moment comes later on in the movie when Jimmy's wife comes to watch him in a game, there is a scene where they are just staring at each other and there is so much emotion in those few moments full of pride, love as well as fear. It's a surprisingly powerful scene which epitomises everything which "The Rookie" is about, pride, passion and the fear of going for your dreams.
It has to be said that I am so accustomed to watching Kevin Costner in this type of movie that when the moment comes where "The Rookie" goes from young Jimmy to adult Jimmy I was half expecting it to be Costner. But then Dennis Quaid does a very good job in the lead role, serving up a lot of similarities in his performance to that of what Costner offers, with that aging player quality, strong but also slightly amusing. But Quaid also adds something different and it's in those scenes where Jimmy is looking after his children he delivers something that Costner wouldn't, that slightly humorous yet believable father figure. It's a very good performance and perfect casting.
"The Rookie" is very much Dennis Quaid's movie but he is helped by a nice selection of supporting cast including the lovely Rachel Griffiths as his wife Lorri as well as Brian Cox who is perfect as his father, struggling to show his real emotions towards his son. There are other recognizable faces, especially within the school baseball team such as Jay Hernandez, Rick Gonzalez and Chad Lindberg. But the nicest performance comes from Angus T. Jones as Jimmy's son who is as much in love with baseball as his father.
What this all boils down to is that "The Rookie" is a glorious movie. It's predictably inspirational with scenes which instil you with a sense of self belief but with its various story elements is not just a cliche journey from nothing to something. Being a Walt Disney production it is very family friendly, maybe a little too friendly in places, but with a decent performance from Dennis Quaid and a harmony between the story and the baseball action it is a very good baseball movie.
Tags: Baseball Movies