Friday, February 21, 2020

Reserved Seating Swings for the Fences: ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD (1994)

by Rob DiCristino and Adam Riske
The review duo who believe their eyes and ears but not angels.

Rob: Welcome back to Reserved Seating. I’m Rob DiCristino.

Adam: And I’m Adam Riske.
Rob: Our baseball movie series returns for spring training with Angels in the Outfield, Disney’s 1994 remake of the 1951 Paul Douglas/Janet Leigh movie of the same name. This version stars Danny Glover as George Knox, the hot-tempered manager of the last-place California Angels. As Knox and his team (which includes Tony Danza and blink-and-you’ll-miss-them performances from Adrien Brody and Matthew McConaughey) hopelessly flail around the diamond, a young fan named Roger Bommen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) learns that his widower father (Dermot Mulroney) has made plans to leave him as a ward of the state. They’ll be a family again “when the Angels win the pennant,” Mr. Bommen says. With the help of Al (Christopher Lloyd), a “boss angel” providing spiritual guidance — and apparently performance enhancement — to those in need, Roger resolves to make that dream a reality.

I’m just going to say it: Angels in the Outfield might be the worst movie we’ve covered in this series, so far. I’m sure a lot of our readers have nostalgia for it, but it’s a huge pile of shit. How is it possible that we DIDN’T get a World Series in 1994, but we DID get this movie? Was this our punishment for engaging in collective bargaining? Outside of a vague thread about the importance of having faith in oneself, very little of Angels in the Outfield fits together in any coherent way. There are huge storylines left hanging without resolution (Tony Danza is dying of cancer, but it’s fine?), the lead characters are all more or less static as weird shit happens around them, and the movie’s grasp on the actual game of baseball is tenuous, at best. Lloyd’s team of whimsical sprites fuck around with the Angels’ players in order to give Roger false hope about his family prospects and then decides to bail on everyone in the Postseason! There’s also a vindictive broadcaster (Jay O. Sanders) who hatches a scheme to...make Knox lose his job? Because he used to manage the Angels, and he wants his job back? Just go manage another team!

Adam, please help me.
Adam: So, check this out. I used to LOVE this movie when I first saw it at age 12. None of the issues you raised bothered me somehow. I must have been really Zen back then. This was my first watch of Angels in the Outfield in a very long time. I don’t hate it nowadays, but I do have some problems with this movie. We’re going to need to break this down with bullet points:

• Yes, the announcer sabotaging the team makes very little sense. Obviously, there are members of the sports media with axes to grind, but what is this guy? Is he play-by-play and a beat reporter? That’s not how that works! As the radio voice of the Angels, he’d be employed by the Angels who would never allow one of their employees to trash and sabotage their team like this with impunity. What the fuck is going on here?

• Why is Tony Danza’s character still on the team? They said he hasn’t pitched in the 1990s. Being generous, this movie is set in 1993. No active roster would keep an injured pitcher on it for 3+ years. I know they activate him before his comeback start, but even then he wouldn’t be around the team while he’s on the shelf like he is.

• Why is Major League Baseball not launching investigations on all the weird shenanigans happening at Angels games? Baseballs are flying around the infield, people are making impossible catches, catchers are sliding on their bellies 90 feet between bases. It’s not kosher. It is not kosher!

• Finally, not to bury the lead, but the Angels are cheating. They are freakin’ cheaters. This is probably Alex Bregman’s favorite movie. It doesn’t let you off the hook that the angels stop helping the Angels in the final game of the season with the division crown on their line (why does everyone refer to this as the “championship”?). These s.o.b.’s are compromising the integrity of the game. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character is the Carlos Beltran of the movie, with his buddy JP being (I guess) Alex Cora in this situation. Danny Glover knows about the angels and thus is condoning cheating. He should be fired. Where is the GM in all this? He should be fired, too. This whimsical movie is a scandal that would have rocked baseball for years.

All this aside, I thought the Danny Glover subplot with the orphaned kids, when they’re away from the stadium, was sweet and the best part of the movie.
Rob: They activate Danza and then tell him MINUTES BEFORE THE GAME BEGINS that he’s the starting pitcher?! A start in which he will eventually throw over 160 pitches!? Do you want Tommy John surgery? Because that’s how you get Tommy John surgery! And look, liberties with sports rules are always taken in the name of entertainment, but Angels in the Outfield is such a mess on a basic structural level that I had trouble understanding what the goal was (outside winning the “championship”) for any one character at any one time. This is what I gathered. See if you can help me:

• Roger’s dad says that they will be a family when the Angels win the pennant. That’s the inciting incident, I guess. Roger goes to an Angels game and encounters Al and his team of heavenly jackasses. Al helps the Angels win their first game in weeks. He then tells Roger that only he can see them and that he can’t tell anyone else about them (?). Al also says that the angels don’t make promises or commitments and can come and go as they please (?).

• Roger immediately tells Knox and J.P. about Al (because Roger is an asshole) which, as you mentioned, begins to weave this sinister web of collusion. Knox recruits Roger to be a “good luck charm” (?) while also rebuffing his lineup suggestions (?) because there’s not really anything else going on in the movie.

• Later on, Roger’s foster mother (Brenda Fricker as Maggie) tells him that he will have to miss the “championship” game because he has a court hearing with his case worker. Roger says he has to be at the game to spot angels, but Maggie insists that he go to the hearing. There, Mr. Bommen (who is basically James from Twin Peaks) permanently signs away his parental rights and leaves his kid crying and alone. Thanks, Maggie.

• Sometime around here, things shift over to Knox as a baffling First Amendment trial threatens his managerial career. Team owner T.J. Oilman Puffinstuff (I’m not looking up his name) says that Knox and his team are wrong to believe in angels. Maggie (who is at the press conference?) stands up and explains (because they let random people speak at press conferences?) that this is fucking stupid, and the Angels rally around Knox.

• They all pay for it in the “championship,” when Knox tells a 45-year-old man who’s already thrown 160 pitches that he just has to believe in himself because the kid flapping his arms in the dugout said so. Remember, the bases are loaded. It’s the 9th inning. At least Knox warms up a reliever?

• I want to remind everyone that Roger was just abandoned by both his father and the angel who claimed he would help him, the latter of whom explains that he’s only at the game because he’s checking on the pitcher (the one still inexplicably on the mound) who will soon die of lung cancer (?). Go Angels!

• The Angels win the “championship” (over the White Sox, which, you know, screw that) and Knox adopts Roger and JP. They got a dad after all because they had faith in... themselves, I guess? Because the Angels won? Because they believed in themselves? No, it’s because they believed in Knox, right? Remember when they cheered for him? Anyway, Christopher Lloyd smirks at the camera before fucking off into the heavens.

I’m honestly trying to figure out why all this bothers me so much. I think it’s because Angels in the Outfield is the opposite of the movie it’s pretending to be, and it really hopes you won’t notice. Al says, “We’re always watching!” and just expects us to know what the fuck he means by that. I don’t know what the fuck he means by that, Adam.
Adam: I have a couple of compliments and then I have a few more gripes. Ok, the good. The movie is beautifully shot by Matthew F. Leonetti who also cinematog’d...wait for it...Star Trek: First Contact.

Rob: #DataFucks #BorgRealDoll #DrillAttachment

Adam: I like the score by Randy Edelman (who has some bangers in his day, like Dragonheart and Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story). Also, the Angels beating the White Sox didn’t bother me much. The reason being is because the White Sox were so good in the early-’90s that in 1994 we replaced the Yankees as the “evil” baseball team in sports movies. That’s showing some respect! The Sox were the villains in Major League II also. I like how the Sox big bat is “Hit or Die” Kesey, played by former major leaguer Carney Lansford. You might remember Carney Lansford from the baseball cards you didn’t want as a kid. I love how in real life (back in 2005) the White Sox beat the Red Sox (Apple Watch cheaters), the Angels (angel cheaters), and the Astros (all-time worst cheaters). The White Sox are the sword of justice in Major League Baseball.

Rob: Anyone who leaves a comment about the 1919 Black Sox is getting decked. Carry on.

Adam: We paid for 1919 and then some. The California Angels of 1994 have been left unpunished for their crimes against baseball.

Ok, other things that annoy me in Angels in the Outfield (1994). Why does no one make mention that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is acting like a paranoid schizophrenic right next to the dugout as if that’s not even the slightest security risk? Why does Roger and JP stand up and block everyone’s view in the stands? They just do it willy nilly. They don’t care. They’re selfish. Why are they so happy to humiliate that one chaperone the Angels provide them with? Sure, I’m exaggerating (it’s kids movie slapstick) but what did this poor man ever do (other than his job) to deserve sitting in nachos and having shit constantly spilled on him? It’s even more egregious because there’s one quick moment where the guy is like “YES!” when the Angels do good and the kids look at him like “You’re not allowed to enjoy this, ya bishhhhh.”

Rob: What about when both kids mockingly yell “Sorry!” and start laughing at him! He should send Maggie the dry-cleaning bill for his linen suit.

Adam: I got more. What is with this Monkey’s Paw/Wishmaster bullshit where Tony Danza is gonna die in six months? Was this some Faustian bargain that Roger wasn’t aware of for the Angels to cheat their way into the playoffs? I know they said it’s because Danza was a chain smoker, but shit's messed up. Think about it...the Angels come down from Heaven and say, “We’re going to cheat and then on the most important night of the season that’s when we’re dropping the news that we’re collecting souls, too.” What if Danza doesn’t want to be an angel? Is anyone going to tell him he has six months left to tend to his affairs? Or does it not matter to Roger because he got what he needed out of this poor man? Will Danza’s character die on Opening Day the next year? That’s the timeline, people. It’s not cool.
Rob: Oh my god. We need one of those Fifty Shades of Grey spinoff-type movies where the story is told from Danza’s perspective. We need Divoff! Also, why did Knox change out of his uniform after the championship game, but not the kids? And you could TOTALLY tell how excited Maggie was to be rid of those little fuckers. They’re all, “What will Maggie do with herself without us?”, and she’s all, “You’re all totally interchangeable to me. What’s your name, again?”

Do you think the Angels players were all able to spin their gravity-defying feats into huge free agent contracts in the next season? Did re-signing the chili dog guy push the Angels over the Luxury Tax?

And holy shit, there are TWO sequels to this movie? Have you seen either? And are you going Mark On or Off on this one?

Adam: I bet some of the players got big contracts from other teams only for those clubs to realize they were the victims of fraud. Those other guys are untradeable because a) they said they’ll only play for George Knox diminishes their value and b) there’s no General Manager, so how would trades happen? I haven’t seen either of the sequels. I don’t consider them cannon. Maybe they answer all our questions???!!! I’m going Mark On for this one because I had a blast talking about it and the world is a rainbow. How about you?

Rob: Also Mark On, and for the same reasons. This movie is nonsense, but the questions it raises are deep and eternal.

Adam: Until next time…

Rob: These seats are reserved.

No comments:

Post a Comment