MOVIE REVIEW | ***TOM WEEK*** Mr Baseball (1992)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “I wasn’t expecting much from Mr Baseball, and it pretty much delivered.”

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It’s like being a black guy back home. Only there’s less of us.

If you were to tell me that Tom Selleck was one of the biggest stars of the 80s, I’d agree.  I was there and remember him being huge.  What I don’t remember, are very many specific reasons why. Sure, he was the titular star of Magnum PI.  But that was a TV show, in a time when TV actors where scum compared to their big screen colleagues.  Selleck had a big hit with Three Men and a Baby and a slightly less big hit with its sequel, but that’s all I can remember about his movie output.  So why do I remember Tom Selleck as a mega star?  Maybe I’ll get a refresher by watching a movie I vaguely remembered when I saw it listed on his IMDb page, Mr Baseball.

Four years ago, Jack Elliot (Selleck) was a World Series MVP for the New York Yankees.  But now he’s deep in a rut of too many strike outs and not nearly enough home runs, or even base hits.  Trying to rescue some dignity for their old star, Yankees management put out the call looking for another club that might take Elliot in a trade.  The only club that answers, is the Japan based Dragons.

With no other option, Jack takes his American cockiness to Japan, expecting all the perks of being a superstar, with no intention of putting in any of the work of being an athlete.  Straight away there are culture clashes left and right, as the loud, full of himself American butts up against the humble, hard working and dedicated attitude of his new team mates.  But maybe both can learn a little bit from each other, and take the Dragons all the way.

Mr Baseball is a by the numbers sports movie and a by the numbers comedy.  But that did not stop it from having one really big surprise.  Made at a time when Japanese business had decimated the American automotive industry and was leading the world in technological advancements that filled all of our houses with the latest appliances and electronics, this movie takes a shockingly pro Japanese work ethic, anti American cockiness stance.

There are cheap, cliched jokes about the most well worn aspects of Japanese culture, but Jack is always the butt of those jokes.  The ratio of what he adds to the team, and what Japanese culture adds to his own fulfilment as a human means Jack Elliot gets whole lot more out of the deal than Japan or the Dragons do.  It really is a humble side of American, major studio film making that I didn’t think existed in the early 90s.
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This wasn’t a great time for cinema.  The 80s action heroes had run their schtick into the ground and the mid 90s indie revolution was still a few years away.  All of that is to say, I wasn’t expecting much from Mr Baseball, and it pretty much delivered.  There are a few decent laughs and Tom Sellexk has an undeniable star quality.  I just can’t think of anything more enthusiastic than that to say after watching Mr Baseball.

Mr Baseball
Directed By – Fred Schepisi
Written By – Gary Ross, Kevin Wade, Monte Merrick

Other Opinions Are Available.  What did these people have to say about Mr Baseball?
Roger Ebert
The New York Times
Beyond the Movies

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