In his first at-bat as leading man, charismatic funnyman Bernie Mac
delivers a winning turn as a retired 47-year-old baseball great making an unlikely comeback. Paired with a fiery Angela Bassett
under the breezy, dynamic direction of Charles Stone III, Mac broadens his scope in Mr. 3000
, showing off his athleticism and flexing some dramatic muscle. This tale of a lovable jerk who learns the meaning of sacrifice should capitalize on its star's sitcom popularity to hit one out of the park for Disney.
The instant he achieved his 3,000th career base hit, Milwaukee Brewers' Stan Ross (Mac) left his team in the midst of a pennant race in order to bask in retirement glory. Nine years later, he's living the entrepreneurial life in Milwaukee, where his Mr. 3000 shopping center and its flagship sports bar are a shrine unto himself. After the team retires his number, all that's left to seal the "certified immortality" he so craves is a slot in the Hall of Fame.
In anticipation of his nomination, the hall scrutinizes the record books and discovers that three of Stan's hits were counted twice. Hello, Mr. 2,997. Desperate to restore his crown and secure his spot in Cooperstown, Stan approaches the equally desperate Brewers. Although Stan has never been a team player, general manager Schembri (Chris Noth
) welcomes his attendance-boosting presence on the fifth-place squad.
A lot is new since Stan was last on the roster: The team has switched to the National League, for starters. Pilates is part of the conditioning program, and the star of the team is T-Rex Pennebaker (Brian White, one-time player for the New England Patriots). The young hotshot is as mouthy and full of himself as Stan once was. That their adversarial relationship will shift to a mentoring connection is no surprise, but the script by Eric Champnella
, Keith Mitchell and Howard Michael Gould makes its points with a light hand.
There are shades of Barry Bonds
in Stan's refusal to play ball with the press. But Stan's driving force is sheer ego. Having shown he's not above ripping a record-making ball from the hands of a fan or baiting "stank-ass reporters," he's now a prime target for ridicule -- and a hot story. One of the journalists covering that story is his former flame Mo (Bassett), an ESPN reporter. Bassett brings a compelling mix of steeliness and passion to the character, who regards the one-time womanizer with guardedness, fighting her feelings for him.
There's a pleasing fortysomething credibility to the way their renewed romance plays out. And in a parallel to Stan's sudden old-timer status, Mo knows the network is sidelining her from onscreen work in favor of the next young thing.
Even with a couple of pauses for obvious Big Theme dialogue, the film never takes itself too seriously. Most of its observations unfold subtly in the midst of the laughs -- like the strange rituals of male communication between Stan and longtime pal Boca (Michael Rispoli
), whose nickname reflects a preference for velour leisure suits more fitting to southern Florida than Wisconsin. Along the same lines, Paul Sorvino
makes the most of an almost wordless role as the team's manager.
As a guy taking abuse from everyone from Tom Arnold to the Sausage Mascot (director Stone), Mac injects Stan's comic swagger with flashes of woundedness. Stone -- whose credits include Drumline
and the "Whassup?!" Budweiser commercials -- has chosen actors who know their way around a diamond, lending immediacy and power to the game sequences. Shane Hurlbut
's crisp lensing heightens the energy on the field and captures the shining design contributions. A strong element of the polished tech package is a fine selection of R&B favorites, propelling the story with a sure beat.
Buena Vista Pictures
A Touchstone Pictures and Dimension Films presentation of a Barber and Birnbaum/Kennedy/Marshall production
Director: Charles Stone III
Screenwriters: Eric Champnella
, Keith Mitchell, Howard Michael Gould
Producers: Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum
, Maggie Wilde
Executive producers: Jonathan Glickman
, Frank Marshall, Steven Greener, Timothy M. Bourne
Director of photography: Shane Hurlbut
Production designer: Maher Ahmad
Music: John Powell
Co-producer: Derek Evans
Costume designer: Salvador Perez
Editor: Bill Pankow
Stan Ross: Bernie Mac
Mo: Angela Bassett
Boca: Michael Rispoli
T-Rex Pennebaker: Brian White
Fukuda: Ian Anthony Dale
Fryman: Evan Jones
Minadeo: Amaury Nolasco
Skillett: Dondre Whitfield
Gus Panas: Paul Sorvino
Schembri: Chris Noth
As themselves: Tom Arnold, Ron Darling
, Larry King, Tony Kornheiser
, John Salley
, Stuart Scott
, Michael Wilbon
, Jay Leno
, Chris Rose, Peter Gammons
MPAA rating: PG-13
Running time -- 102 minutes