Toon Talk: The Rookie
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Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt
"There are no second acts in American Lives." -- F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940).
Apparently, nobody ever told that to Jim Morris. Morris was a high school science teacher in the dusty little town of Big Lake, Texas who always loved baseball. Ever since he was a kid, shipped from one state to the next due to his father's military duties, he dreamed of making it to the big leagues. As he grew older, he had his opportunity, but a shoulder injury sidelined his chances of ever making it as a professional pitcher. He settled into a comfortable life as an educator, husband and father of three, but he always wondered what might have been.
Jimmy got his chance to find out when, as a means to inspire the school's ragtag baseball team he coaches, he agrees to try out for the majors if they win their district championship. When, against all probable odds, they do, his subsequent tryout makes quite an impression: it's hard to ignore a 95-mph fastball, even from an ancient-for-the-big-leagues thirty-seven year old 'never was'. Suddenly, Jimmy was being courted by the big leagues and sports reporters from around the country, eventually playing two seasons as relief pitcher for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
While this story may sound like it was dreamt up in the mind of some Hollywood screenwriter hacking out the next feel-good, male-bonding 'dude' flick, it is actually based on fact, and is the basis for The Rookie, the latest in uplifting family dramas from Walt Disney Pictures. And, like it's predecessor Remember the Titans , The Rookie overcomes it's basic 'sports movie' cliches through a fine lead performance and it's wise avoidance of turning it's protagonist into a biopic saint. (Click here for the Toon Talk review of Remember the Titans.)
Dennis Quaid displayed an early promise in such films as varied as The Right Stuff, The Big Easy and the football-themed Everybody's All-American, but has yet to break into the stratosphere of 'superstar' actors with that one 'big' movie. Coincidentally or not, it's that fact that makes him fit so well into this underdog role. Like other actors of his generation such as Jeff Bridges and Ed Harris, Quaid is a reliable presence on screen, able to use his lived-in good looks and subtle style to make any character he plays watchable, even if the movie surrounding him is not.
The real Jim Morris and Dennis Quaid
Quaid, who spent several months perfecting his pitching abilities for this film, embraces the role of Jimmy Morris: every disappointment in his life is etched on his face, and when he finally realizes his dream has become reality (in a touching moment when he sees his name on his major league uniform for the first time), you are right there with him. And when Jimmy throws those incredibly fast pitches, the look in his eyes shows us that he is as amazed that he can do it as everyone else is.