Tuesday, April 05, 2005

DVD: Mr. 3000 (2004)

Yesterday was Opening Day, and the Mets already have a losing record. Well, that’s just great. On the bright side, if recent acquisitions like Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran continue to perform the way they did for the first eight innings of the opener, the Mets will be in the hunt through September.

To mark the start of baseball season, I watched this Bernie Mac comedy that was repeatedly cited as a sleeper in last year’s otherwise dismal Slate Movie Club. I can see why. It’s a perfect example of savvy commercial filmmaking, the kind of movie that Hollywood should be able to produce with regularity but seldom does.

Bernie plays a Milwaukee Brewers slugger who abruptly retires when he reaches 3000 career hits. Nine years later, he’s still waiting for the call from Cooperstown when he learns that due to a scoring error, three of his hits don’t count. So he rejoins the team, determined to burnish his reputation.

As always, Bernie delivers laughs, often with nothing more than a pause or a change in his facial expression. But he also taps into the deep well of narcissism that drives many professional athletes. He’s not afraid to be unlikable, which makes his character’s measured transformation that much more believable.

The movie gets the details of the current baseball world right throughout. The Brewers are depicted as a deeply mediocre franchise who at best have a shot at third place. SEX AND THE CITY’s Chris Noth plays the team’s GM as a disappointed MBA who exploits Bernie’s comeback for the publicity value and makes every decision accordingly. Even the Brewers’ move from the A.L. to the N.L. – which means that Bernie will have to field as well as hit – is acknowledged, although that was one plot element that I never completely bought. You have to figure his defensive skills would atrophy long before his hitting ability would. Nobody’s taking steroids to improve their pitching.

There’s also an adult love story between Bernie and ESPN reporter Angela Bassett, and an ending that avoids all the typical sports movie clichés. It’s not a great movie by any means, but a solid stand-up double.

Now if only the Mets can tighten up their bullpen, we’ll have something to talk about.