Hollywood Hits One Out of the Park with “The Rookie”

Readers familiar with this column have probably noticed that with the exception of occasional cinematic concerts by the Houston Symphony, I defer to our local film critics when it comes to reviewing movies. But on this occasion, I hope my editors and readers will allow me to dabble in film criticism just long enough to sing the praises of  “The Rookie.” It is the kind of movie I thought they couldn’t make any more.

I am one of those who suspect that the trend in films toward ever more noise, special effects, loud music and tawdry, lewd content is a blight on the nation’s children. Oh sure, I’ve heard the Jack Valenti / Hollywood pitch about how parent’s should monitor what children are being exposed to. No argument there! But, to me, that is like asking parents to monitor an avalanche that is descending on their young. A better idea, in my view, would be for our media moguls to monitor trashy entertainment that disguises itself as “art” and “free speech.” But that is a discussion for another day.

The point of this piece is that Hollywood really got it right this time! “The Rookie,” starring Dennis Quaid, is based on the true story of baseball legend, Jim Morris. We meet Morris as a young boy and follow him as his passion for baseball takes him on a winding journey that includes childhood dreams, an insensitive father, serious sports injury, high school coaching, a rich family life, and ultimate success in the Major Leagues.

Quaid’s tour de force performance as Morris is both convincing and inspiring. I would love to see him get the Oscar for this one! Even when questioning his quest for the Majors, Rachel Griffiths is wonderful as his tender, caring and supportive wife, Lori. Brian Cox gives a touching portrayal of the father, Jim Sr. Both the casting and performances of the young children and the high school ballplayers in the film are sheer perfection. There are wonderful performances as well, from a host of hometown characters.

I will not take up your time dissecting plot and characters. I will leave that to the film critics. But I feel compelled to comment on the overall impact of this warm, gentle, and moving masterpiece. The New York Times critic aptly compared it to “It’s A Wonderful Life.” It is a film that never disrespects the audience, and yet seems to touch the hearts of all who see it. It is a film bursting with characters you feel you know. It is full of rich sentiment, hometown values, and characters that care for and support one another.

Whether capturing the real character of a small, dusty Texas town, or the majesty of major league ballparks, the cinematography is opulent. The exquisite and gentle musical score of Carter Burwell is appropriately peppered with familiar standards from the likes of Elvis, Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, Jefferson Airplane, and many more. It was such a pleasing collection I left the theater and headed for the music store to buy the CD. This is a gem of a movie for the whole family, and it doesn’t matter a bit if you are a baseball fan. If you have given up on Hollywood, it may be time to give them one more chance. I promise you won’t be sorry!

(The Courier    8.2.02)

About The People's Critic

David Dow Bentley III, writes columns about the performing arts which are featured in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast. A member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), The International Theatre Critics Association, and America's oldest theatrical club, The Lambs, he also had long service as the editor of The Lambs' Script magazine. Mr. Bentley may be contacted via e-mail at ThePeoplesCritic3@gmail.com.
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