directed by John Lee Hancock
Walt Disney Pictures
The rookie comes from the studio behind Remember the Titans, and it strives for the same rush of "Isn't this sport grand?" endorphins. It is based on the true story of Jimmy Morris, a high school baseball coach in Texas who rediscovers his 97-mph pitching arm and pursues a stint in the major leagues.
The film begins with a sequence of magic realism: Two nuns have hastily invested all their money in a quest for oil in a small Texas town's dusty fields. Following their parish priest's advice, they pray to a saint of lost causes and scatter yellow flower petals across the field.
The sequence, shot beautifully by cinematographer John Schwartzman, initially feels entirely out of left field. But it sets up the film's prevailing theme of grace coming into the lives of people who pursue their dreams with courage and love.
Lead actor Dennis Quaid returns to territory he explored in the football movies Everybody's All-American (1988) and Any Given Sunday (1999), portraying a once-promising athlete who faces a life of aching muscles and vanishing dreams of glory. But this time his dreams are resurrected by the loyal members of his high school baseball team, who make him promise to pursue a renewed pitching career if they win a district championship.
His pursuit of major-league play is less interesting, though, than the back story written by Mike Rich. Morris's father is so emotionally repressed that he cannot touch his son even in a moment of athletic triumph. Character actor Brian Cox brings subtlety to a role that he could have easily overplayed.
The tentative steps toward reconciliation between father and son make the G-rated Rookie a worthwhile outing.
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