I watched Mr. Baseball last night because I was feeling depressed over the Rangers 25-42 record and I thought that watching a movie about baseball (it’s right there in title!) might cheer me up.
Tom Selleck plays Jack Elliott, an aging first baseman player who was once the MVP of the New York Yankees but whose best days are behind him. Everyone realizes it but him. Looking to sign a hotshot rookie, the Yankees put Jack on the trading block. However, the only team that’s interesting in signing an arrogant veteran with a bad knee is a Japanese team, the Nagoya Chunichi Dragons.
Though he’s not happy about the trade, Jack move to Japan and takes his place as a member of the Dragons. In Japan, he’s nicknamed “Mr. Baseball” and is told by the team’s owner that he’s expected to hit 54 home runs during the season. However, Jack manages to alienate the team with his boorish attitude and his lack of understanding of Japanese culture. With the help of another American player (Dennis Haysbert) and his girlfriend (Aya Takanashi), Jack finally sets aside his resentment, becomes a part of the team, and leads the Dragons into a pennant race. He also learns how to improve his swing.
When Jack first arrived in Japan, I was worried that Mr. Baseball was going to be a culturally insensitive comedy, all about Jack teaching the Japanese players how to play baseball like the Americans. I was dreading the thought of watching a movie full of stereotypes and cheap jokes about the way people talk. Instead, Mr. Baseball actually treated Japanese baseball with respect and the emphasis was on Jack learning the importance of setting aside his ego, playing as a member of the team, and listening to the team’s manager, Uchimaya (Ken Takakurya). Even though most of the film’s humor does come from the culture clash between the American Jack and his Japanese teammates, Mr. Baseball doesn’t really take any cheap shots at anyone and I appreciated that. Instead, the theme of the film was that, cultural differences aside, everyone on the team loved the game of baseball.
Other than the fact that it was taking place in Japan, Mr. Baseball was a typical baseball film. The plot did not hold many surprises. Jack starts off as a star player, goes into a slump once he lets his ego get the better of him, and manages to come out of it just in time for the pennant race. It’s predictable but Tom Selleck and Dennis Haysbert were convincing baseball players and I liked the film’s look at the culture surrounding baseball in Japan. Mr. Baseball is hardly the greatest baseball movie ever made but it did cheer up this Rangers fan.