Our review of The Rookie (Blu-Ray), published March 21st, 2008, is also available.
It's never too late to believe in your dreams.
In 2002, Disney had a sleeper hit on its hands with the Dennis Quaid vehicle The Rookie. Without the fanfare of something like Armageddon, The Rookie still managed to do respectable business at the box office with its All-American theme (baseball) and a family friendly rating (G). Disney has finally taken The Rookie out of the batter's box for release on DVD!
Facts of the Case
The Rookie is based on the true story of Jim Morris (played by Dennis Quaid), a small time school teacher who gets a shot at the big leagues of baseball. In his youth Morris had a chance at becoming a major league ballplayer but blew out his shoulder before he could see his dreams come true. In 1999, Morris was caught throwing the ball while coaching a high school team—and what a ball this guy could toss! His students were amazed to see their beloved mentor throw a nearly 100 mph pitch, even faster than he was throwing in his prime! Since Jim's high school baseball team isn't doing well, they make their coach an offer he can't refuse: if they make it to the district championship, Morris promises to try out for the big leagues. What follows is a magical tale about never giving up on your dreams and being all that you can be!
After sitting and pondering The Rookie for while, I find myself somewhat lost for words (okay, like that would ever happen…). The movie is, in one way or another, pretty much what I was expecting. It's about baseball. It's about growing old and never losing your dreams. It's about rediscovering your dreams and doing something about them. And it's about two hours long, which was an hour and a half too much for this reviewer. It's not that The Rookie is a bad movie, just a really, really sloooooow one. I mean snail's pace slow. Even Carter Burwell's music score seems excessively meandering. Clocking in at over two hours long, the storyline just isn't thick enough to warrant such a sluggish pace. The plot is as follows: small town guy finds big time dreams. And that's about it. Sure, there's some exposition surrounding Jim Morris' friends and family, but they all seem rather inconsequential in comparison to the story at hand.
Dennis Quaid as Jim Morris looks a little road weary, which is maybe how Jim felt during 1999. Quaid is one of those rare actors who's genuinely likable, yet he never really found a breakout film. This movie may be it. His smile is made of a million dollars, and he's got enough hometown good looks to make you believe he could actually be stuck in the middle of Texas as a teacher. I liked Quaid in this role, even if I didn't like the movie. Quaid's supporting cast is apt enough, including Six Feet Under's Rachel Griffiths and Rushmore's Brian Cox. While both actors (and the rest of the cast) do a fine job with the script, none of them come off as even halfway interesting. There's some friction between Jim and his father (played by Cox), but it's never heavy enough to become good cinematic drama. The relationship between Jim and his wife is also as bland—there are a few instances where they argue, though even those are handled with a TV movie-of-the-week sentimentality that gets tiresome.
The baseball scenes are all first rate—each employs the usual cheering crowds, slow motion pans in the rain, and the requisite "final game of major importance." Baseball fans will surely be happy with this movie because, as any of them will attest, there's a thrill walking into a ballpark for the first time. And we get to see that register on the character's faces over and over…and over again. Apparently, the filmmakers didn't realize that there's a limit to how much awe you can inspire in a single viewing.
I know I'm being a tad harsh on The Rookie, so I want to take the opportunity to point out that this is a wonderful film for parents with young kids. The message is one of universal importance; the usual sex, violence, and swearing is non-existent; and the ball scenes will thrill any ten-year-old who owns a mitt. As the children grow older, maybe they'll start to appreciate the difference between a well constructed film and a good film. The Rookie is made up of all the needed parts, but lacks true heart—its aspirations are noble, just boring.
The Rookie is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, a great aspect ratio for movies about sports. Opinions aside, this is a fantastic transfer by Disney. Except for the slightest amount of edge enhancement in the image, this print of The Rookie looks to be in excellent shape. The colors are all very crisp and detailed with the black levels appearing solid and dark. Overall I was very pleased with how nice this transfer was, and fans should be equally as excited by the sharpness of the image.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. Much like the video presentation, this audio mix is first rate. While the surround sounds and directional effects aren't overly aggressive, this mix is very apt for the film. There's some nice utilization via all the speakers (i.e., when it's raining, during the crowd-packed baseball games), and the mix is completely clear of any hiss or distortion. I can't say that this mix blew me away, but it did what was needed and that's all I was asking. Also included on this disc are Spanish and English subtitles.
Because The Rookie was a hit with audiences, Disney has added more supplements than usual to this DVD edition of the film. Here is a rundown of what's on the disc:
Commentary track by Dennis Quaid and director John Lee Hancock: I'll be honest in saying I didn't listen to this whole track since I found the movie so utterly dull. What I listened to (about 45 minutes worth) seems to be informative, though Quaid leans more towards the quiet side. Fans of the film surely enjoy hearing a plethora of stories about the shoot, casting and story. Otherwise, track doesn't appear to be anything special.
Deleted scenes: There are four deleted scenes here, each with a short intro by director Hancock. The scenes themselves wouldn't have added much to the film, and each are presented in a decent looking non-anamorphic widescreen version.
"The Inspirational Story of Jim Morris" featurette: This is a 20-minute look at the real Jim Morris and his story (including interviews with Jim and the people who know him). While this has to do with the movie (obviously), it's more a short documentary on the real guy who inspired the movie. This is worth seeing if you want to know the back story behind the movie.
Spring Training: This is a featurette that is hosted by the film's baseball coordinator Mark Hills. The gist of this is you can select certain options (pitching, catching, et cetera) and Hills gives you tips on how to do it right. Whoop-dee-do.
Sneak Peeks: I love the name Disney gives their trailers section. "Sneak Peeks." I guess they think it makes us feel like we're real "Hollywood" insiders when we're able to get a glimpse of something before it's released. Anyhow, about seven trailers are included here for your viewing pleasure.
I'm kind of surprised that this was such a hit in the theaters. Lethargic to say the least, The Rookie just goes on and on and on…it's The Never Ending Story of baseball movies. If you were one of the millions who saw this in the theater and want to buy it, this DVD from Disney is sure to make you feel like a grade-A slugger.
The movie is found guilty of putting me to sleep…twice. Disney is acquitted on all charges for their work on this disc. Court dismissed!
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary Track by Director John Lee Hancock and Dennis Quaid
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