It hurts my heart to say this, but this is a deeply flawed movie. I loved Rookie of the Year as a child, probably because I was a stupid, stupid child. Literally every person in this movie is terrible at their job with the exception of a consistently manipulated child. Plus there is a criminal underuse of Julie the Cat Gaffney. Just because this is a movie about Major League Baseball doesn’t mean you can just ignore a junior Olympic quality goalie. Fucking shameful. But it’s not just Julie the Cat. Also, I should probably stop calling her Julie the Cat. Her name is Colombe Jacobsen-Derstein, Julie was just a character she played. And that is fine, and something I know and definitely don’t need to remind myself because I think Mighty Ducks is a real thing.
I’m gonna keep calling her Julie the Cat.
Anyway, the first, and most obvious of the flaws apparent in this movie is the incredibly gross depiction of sex throughout this movie. The main character is 11 or 12 during the movie, and the sexuality displayed in the movie never really get past that level. Obviously the director and producers wanted to create humor that kids could enjoy, but it’s pretty awful even at a child level. In the second scene of the movie, where we first meet our heroes, Henry’s mom greets everyone. She says hi to Henry, then greets his friend Clark with a weirdly drawn out “Hi Clark,” and she’s practically salivating. Later, Henry’s other friend George is describing Becky (played by Julie the Cat Gaffney) and points his fingers out at chest level to indicate she has boobs and says she’s “stacked.” First of all, no she isn’t. She’s a 12 year old. She’s built like a 2 by 4, which is appropriate for a girl of 12. He also says “milk did her body good.” That’s just gross and creepy, and we should be demanding better entertainment for our kids. And I think the most egregious example of weird depictions of sex. During the only time all movie that Henry is on base, he steals second and then gets to keep going around third and head home. While his mom is watching this, she suddenly starts breathing heavily, slamming her hand down, and shouting “Oh god, oh god!” Then, as Henry crosses home plate she lets out a shriek of “YES!” and collapses backwards with a satisfied sigh that made me uncomfortable even though I was watching this movie alone.
Can we address how bad Henry’s mom is? Like, at being a mom? Mary is the worst pretty much right from the start. It’s every parent’s job to encourage their kids. But at the same time, it’s also your job to steer them in the direction their skills lie. So when her son comes home from his baseball game talking about how badly he did, especially when you know he’s a terrible catch, maybe don’t say “well if you’re terrible at right field, maybe you should be a pitcher!” That’s not how baseball works. In little league, you get put in right field when you’re terrible but they can’t kick you out. Most little league players aren’t strong enough batters that they’re hitting deep into the field. In the major leagues, right field is a skill position. You have to have a strong arm in addition to being able to run a large area of field and be able to catch. But in little league there is no reason a failed right fielder should ever be considered to pitch, and telling your son that is just setting him up for more disappointment. It’s like a shitty Aprill Fool’s joke, which is actually exactly when the movie starts. And if you’re going to do a good April Fool’s joke, it most certainly shouldn’t be exactly on April Fool’s. A good surprise, by its very nature as a surprise, should never come at the expected time. My buddy Tirumari Jothi is a very funny standup comedian, and he told me a few years ago that he thought it would be fun to have a roast for his birthday. So I organized him a surprise roast, planned things out with the girl he’d been seeing, and threw the birthday party for him. Six months early. Because how you do it. But I’m getting far afield.
We meet Mary’s boyfriend Jack in the third scene of the movie, and Henry hates him. Well, hate is too strong a word, but it’s definitely a distrust and dislike. And when Mary leaves for her “three week anniversary,” Henry says “you’re going out AGAIN?” That means she’s been gone a lot in three weeks. Far too much for a mother with a young child. And while she’s gone, she manages to have incredibly unrealistic expectations. This woman tell her 11-12 year old son to be in bed by 8:30. That’s insane. I don’t remember what my late elementary/early middle school bedtime was, but I know it wasn’t “before the damn sun is down.” We see these unrealistic expectations at play again in her extremely erratic boundary setting. Mary wants to walk Henry into the locker room on his first day on the team, when days earlier she let him and his friends go unsupervised to watch the game itself. Henry is way safer in an athletic locker room surrounded by professional athletes who aren’t going to do anything to jeopardize their paycheck than he is in the stands surrounded by drunk idiots who actually try to fist fight Henry because he throws a ball better than they did. Jesus Mary, what are you doing?
In addition to being bad at parenting, Mary is not much better at being a girlfriend. 6 months into her relationship, she is allowing Jack unprecedented access to her son. If we start dating and I meet your son before date 3, I’m judging you as a parent. If we’re together less than a year and you start letting me do contract negotiations, I’ll probably marry you so I can keep making money off of your kid. But you’re still a bad parent, and it’s weird to put that much pressure on your new boyfriend.
During the relationship, which nobody was ever a really big fan of, Mary also doesn’t conduct herself very well. At an after game party, she starts dancing with Rocket (played by Gary Busey just a few short years after his brain damaging motorcycle accident). She’s slow dancing with a guy she has visible chemistry with right in front of her boyfriend. That’s not how you keep a relationship going. You’re allowed to dance with whoever you want, and hopefully your relationship is strong enough that you don’t run into the jealousy. But regardless of what you’re allowed to do, if you see that it’s bothering your boyfriend, you either need to stop or reassess your relationship right now. And if you’re so enamored with the over the hill professional athlete (who was a complete asshole to your son until he saw that you’re hot) that you don’t realize your boyfriend hates it, you probably shouldn’t be with him anyway.
Later, Mary and Jack get into the only fight we see them in all movie. It’s a bad one, and Jack was a serious asshole. He yelled at Henry that Mary probably didn’t even know who his father was. That’s a dick move. But Mary’s go to response was immediately to punch Jack, and that’s not how we solve our relationship problems. We start with talking, escalate to shouting, move on to sullen silence while one person sleeps either in the living room or at their own place, and then go on to either a breakup or some phenomenal makeup sex. We do not ever step into domestic battery. Just because Jack was an asshole doesn’t make it okay that his girlfriend punched him. I don’t care if it’s your bachelor party and your fiance told you not to go to a strip club, then you went anyway. You don’t hit.
The baseball is probably the best example of people who are bad at their job in this entire movie about baseball. First, let’s talk about the announcer, played by comedy legend John Candy. The movie opens with Candy openly talking shit about the Cubs during a live broadcast. He makes a bet against the Cubs with the other announcer, and gleefully says that this year won’t be any different. Why does he still have a job? Later, we see him somehow announcing in LA, which is not how sports announcing works. But the most egregious issue with John Candy’s performance as a baseball announcer is during the National League Division Championship game. Candy shouts “THIS IS IT! THIS ONE’S FOR ALL THE MARBLES!” No it isn’t. This is a playoff game, the winner of which goes on to the World Series. You know, the one that’s for all the marbles. Idiot.
I’d like to get Daniel Stern’s performance out of the way. Daniel Stern directed this movie, which is already clearly fucking unforgivable. But Stern also played Pitching Coach Phil Brickman. Brickman is so bad at his job that the head coach actually has other pitchers coaching Henry. The pitching coach is so bad that pitchers are coaching other pitchers. How does this man still have a job?! Brickman also regularly misses games because he keeps getting trapped in things. He gets trapped between doors during a road game, and during the Championship game he gets locked in a cage in the locker room. A coach who doesn’t come to games and isn’t trusted to do any actual coaching is a waste of payroll. Stern could have made himself at least a little competent, but he was too stuck in the role of Marv.
As bad as Daniel Stern/Phil Brickman is at his job, that’s actually just a symptom of a problem that exists with the team as a whole. From the start of the movie we see the poor play calling and coaching decisions of the coaching staff. Henry throws a ball from the stands all the way to home plate. Sounds like someone who should be playing in right fucking field. Which is exactly where a good coach would have put Henry. He’s can throw the long ball, and that’s the only position he has experience playing. Luckily the kid turned out to be a good pitcher, but there’s no reason that should have happened.
Shortly before the final game, the team owner makes what is supposed to look like a shady decision to pull Rocket out of the game. Rocket, a player who never really recovered from an old injury. Taking an alcoholic with a bad attitude who has been underperforming for years out of the game isn’t shady, even if the reason for it was less than noble. But a few weeks later at the Division Championship, the coach puts Rocket in as a starter saying “we gotta go with experience.” What coach in their right mind would put in a cold pitcher who wasn’t that great even when he was playing regularly?
Finally, how did the coaches not pull Henry out immediately when they realized something was wrong? Between the schoolyard bullshit and the intentional walks, it was very clear that Henry wasn’t pitching his heat. Even though the coach wasn’t present when Henry pulled the entire infield in to talk strategy now that his arm was gone, the coach should have known something was up. And after two intentional walks, the coach should have run out to the mound We know they have backup pitchers, where the hell were they? And how the hell did anyone miss the floater? It’s an underhand lob, for God’s sake. These batters are used to swinging at 100 mph fastballs, he threw a ball that travels in the same manner used to describe a bubble. But the batter misses, Cubs win and go on to the World Series. With both their starting pitchers on the disabled list. Ha.
The last scene of the movie is Henry showing his World Series ring while playing little league. There’s no world in which the Cubs win that World Series game. They were a grossly underperforming team that got new life when one player joined the team. That player and the other starting pitcher are both out of the game, and you expect me to believe this embattled team rallied to win 4 of 7 games against the other best team in the league? Bullshit.
Sorry this week was late, I’ve been sick. I’m doing better now, looking forward to the rest of the blog! Love and kisses!
For anyone who is interested in the other projects I’m working on or wants to be more involved in the creative process, I’ve created a Patreon account! This blog will remain 100% free, so there is no obligation to sign up, but there are exclusive members-only rewards. Check it out! http://www.patreon.com/danwestcomedy