by Adam Riske and Rob DiCristino
Rob: Welcome back to Reserved Seating. I’m Rob DiCristino.
Adam: And I’m Adam Riske.
Rob: Our summer baseball series wraps up with 2002’s The Rookie, starring Dennis Quaid as high school baseball coach Jim Morris, whose Major League dreams were dashed after a shoulder injury ended his pitching career before it ever started. Though he’s tried his best to put that life behind him, a gutsy wager from his underachieving team re-energizes him: If they work hard and win their state championship, he will attend a local tryout held by the MLB’s Tampa Bay Devil Rays. They do, he does, and — wouldn’t you know it — the former failed prospect finds himself pitching relief on the road to The Show.
The Rookie is Field of Boring Dreams, a saccharine family drama that seems to go out of its way to avoid dramatizing the most interesting points of its story. After spending nearly half an hour on Morris’ lonely childhood (Brian Cox plays his father, a Marine recruiter who resented his son’s affinity for baseball), the narrative picks him back up at age 40+. We learn that he was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers, that he got injured, that his parents divorced, and that he became a teacher in rural Texas (Hey, movie: Show us that stuff!) His young students (specifically Rick Gonzalez as Rudy) go above and beyond to support him for reasons we’re never privy to, and barring a few jokes from his Minor League teammates, the central conflicts relating to his age and ability are largely sped through and glossed over. It’s a movie that wants to capture Heartland culture and American dreams without actually creating or developing any conflict. It’s a movie made for dads to fall asleep to. It has one nice, romantic baseball moment (I teared up when Morris came bursting through the bullpen door to face the Texas Rangers), but it’s little else than fluff. You can count the specific, tangible dramatic turns on one hand.
Adam, what did you think of The Rookie?Any Given Sunday and Frequency and continued after The Rookie with movies like Far From Heaven and In Good Company and he seems ready for another shot (as an actor) similar to his character, Jim Morris, is ready as a pitcher. It’s great casting.
Rob: He’s definitely earnest and holds the screen as well as ever, but I could also feel how much of it is “Do it like Costner.” Might just be me.
Adam: I agree with you, especially on the point of what the film chooses to dramatize. You brought up the childhood scenes and there’s also bookends about St. Rita and nuns blessing the land the baseball field sits on, etc., followed by at least an hour concentrating on the high school baseball team Quaid coaches getting their shit together. Like, who cares? That’s not why I’m watching The Rookie.
Rob: Exactly. The movie is structured in this strange way where there are like three second acts and no third act.Moneyball. I’ve seen the movie about the guy achieving his dream a million times. I want to see the movie about the guy who got his dream to come true and then must do the hard work afterwards.
Rob: This is your reminder that Moneyball, a movie about math, is one of the most romantic and authentic sports movies of all time.
Adam: You made a funny observation yesterday about the big get with Morris being that he throws in the upper 90s. Can you talk about that some more and how different baseball has become in the last 20 years, where guys are throwing 102 mph and upper 90s is pretty standard? Also, what do you think about Jay Hernandez? I have nostalgia for the era (era) when he was in every single movie. I thought that guy was going to be a huge star and then it just never really happened.
Adam: Yep. Nearly everyone has to change pitch selection, speed, and location over and over and over.
Rob: Again, I know this is (literally) inside baseball nonsense, but he needs to do more than throw fast. It also bothers me that the movie isn’t interested in investigating anything about his mechanics or how his age affects it. He doesn’t lose it or overcome any kind of injury. It’s just, “Some arms get faster as they get older,” and that’s it. Ugh. This movie.
And good ol’ Jay Hernandez. I wish he’d had Jeremy Renner’s career.
Adam: We’ll be back next week with our first video Reserved Seating to kick off Scary Movie Month. The topic: three horror movies each of us need to see for the first time this October. Until next time…
Rob: These seats are reserved.