Directed by John Lee Hancock. USA. 2002.

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I was going out for the evening. I had done the whole bit.; hired the babysitter, even got dressed up. (As a single mom, it’s not often that I get to leave the house in something not boasting touches of “mixed fruit drink” tones.) My mom, dad, friends Paul and Janine (the local veterinarians) and myself were going to dinner, and then to see Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. The first part of the evening went entirely according to plan, and as we were all scoffing down cheese and carrot cake, my Dad took a look at the time. “Why, it’s 9:10 p.m.” he exclaimed. “We have plenty of time to get to the theatre for 9:30.”

Of course you veteran Star Wars fans out there have started chortling already.

The Rookie. All Rights Reserved.We arrived at the theatre thinking to ourselves that it was just twenty minutes after nine. We could leisurely purchase out tickets, meander over to the concession counter to be gouged, and take our seats. Unfortunately, as we hadn’t taken the shrewd precaution of acquiring our tickets at a showing of Star Wars Episode I two years ago, we were out of luck.

It was then that Janine piped up ‘insert ominous type music here’ “Let’s go see The Rookie!.

Janine has not had the best luck with selecting movies at group outings that everyone will enjoy. My Dad began teasing Janine mercilessly about her taste in films when she forced a group showing of The Deep End of the Ocean. Dad had just about run out of snappy comments about that particular Michelle Pfieffer film when Janine rearmed him by making her next cinematic decision; Vanilla Sky. I personally think it was because every other offering in the theatre was sold out that we actually went to see Janine’s choice:

To surprisingly, really enjoy ourselves.

The Rookie is the true story of Jim Morris. Jim started out life as a military brat, who was moved from post to post, and baseball team to baseball team, until his father gets a permanent placement in a town with no league to call it’s own. Flash forward to a middle aged man, teaching high school science, coaching, and with no sign of his major league dreams. Until a flippant bet forces him to try out for the big time again.

Dennis Quaid (The Big Easy, Frequency) stars as the title baseball player and brings him to life vibrantly. In his science teacher, you see a man trying to be enthusiastic about something that is not his passion. In his baseball coach you see a man confused by how someone couldn’t possibly love the sport as much as he. Also though, you can genuinely sense his gusto when attempting to be a mentor to those he trains. His interactions with the young players portraying his students are executed beautifully. He is the rock of his family, willing to take on a job that he doesn’t want in order to take care of them. Quaid is a natural at the role of the big hearted softie with an exterior of mischievous charm. Perfect casting.

I have only two quibbles with The Rookie:

1) The subplot between Jim and his father could have been left out of the film entirely. From the audiences’ first introduction to his dad it is made crystal clear that we are not supposed to like him. The dad does not appear to be understanding in the slightest, doesn’t listen to anything that his son has to say, and doesn’t appear to have influenced Jim in the slightest in terms of his values, loves, or parenting. Yet for some reason, the script throws the dad in when showing Jim as an adult. Now divorced, the dad seems to be attempting to grandparent as ineffectively as he parented. He doesn’t show any attempt at a character change until the final five minutes of the film, which is much too late for the audience to develop any sort of affection for him. This story would have been just as effective if the role of Jim’s father had been restricted to the scenes of his childhood.

2) When Jim first shows up in his baseball-less new home, he wanders into the local general store looking for anything remotely baseball related.

As the shopkeep tells him that they don’t actually carry baseball bats, he launches into a story “that’s important to the folks ‘round here.”

Something involving two nuns. Sadly, we don’t get to hear the story about the nuns. At all. The extent that’s known about the nuns is that there is a story about two nuns. That’s it. This could have been forgotten were it not for the fact that in the concluding moments of The Rookie you are shown two nuns dancing off into the sunset. Walking out, the conversations heard didn’t focus on the story, or the beautiful scenery. They were all variations on “Why were those nuns dancing?” In the interests of ending all debates, post-viewing I am going to announce in my professional opinion that the story that was very important to folks ‘round there was all about dancing nuns. As you only see the nuns for a fraction of a second you may conclude that the story was very short.

The Rookie had many wonderful elements. The acting was above par, the supporting players in the film were hysterical, the cinematography was exquisite. The one thing that I found myself really identifying with was the beautifully captured pride a small town has in it’s own. When it’s announced that Jim will be playing in the major leagues, scores of people from his community make posters announcing that fact, spread them all over town, close up shop for the day, and drive for hours to be an extra voice in the stands cheering him on. Out my way, we embrace the same spirit of togetherness and support. We may not have any major leaguers but we do have our local penny auction. This would be where you go through the door, purchase as many tickets as you want for a penny apiece, and then use your tickets to bid on your favourite person’s baked goods. The more tickets bid on your cookies/pie/cakes the more friends you have in the audience. Support for your culinary outing. A neighbourhood spirit. My Dad extends that spirit by giving Mom support when working around our horses. Dad extends that spirit by giving Paul tips on how to barbeque a superior hamburger. And, most notably, Dad has extended that community arm to Janine, by not teasing her quite as much anymore about her taste in films. Dennis, should you ever acquire a pet that needs looking after I suspect Janine will be happy to help at no charge.  


Jen Johnston
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