The Rookie

on March 29, 2002 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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   The true story of Jimmy Morris, a pitcher who got a shot at the Majors in his middle age, ought to be a lot more dramatic then it is. But "The Rookie" is deadly dull, barely working up a sweat as it charts Morris' rise to the Big Leagues.

   Beginning with a legend that establishes the creation of the small Texas town of Big Lake in the 1920s and a few quick scenes of Morris' peripatetic childhood as his family moves from town to town in the wake of his dad's military postings, “The Rookie” quickly settles into the present. Morris (Dennis Quaid) is a Big Lake science teacher/baseball coach, ruefully remembering his own attempt at baseball stardom cut short by injuries, and fighting an uphill battle for a sport that plays second fiddle to football in the town. His team isn't very good either, at least until he strikes a deal with them. If they win the division championship, he'll try out for the pros again. Not only has his arm healed, he's pitching better than he ever has before. From there, the inevitable ensues and soon enough Morris has his big chance. If only we cared.

   “The Rookie” is so underplayed as to be catatonic. And while Quaid is fine as a man who tamps down his feelings out of disappointment, as a character Jimmy Morris simply fails to make much of an impression, except in one pivotal scene. It's left to Rachel Griffiths and Brian Cox, as, respectively, Morris' loyal wife and cold father, to command the screen in their few scenes.

   "The Rookie" isn't as hyperbolic as most sports formula movies, but it's still saddled with clichés and cutesy moments, which are all drowned in Carter Burwell's portentously syrupy score. Morris's life actually makes for a rich tale of redemption, but you wouldn't know it from this pallid, flat movie. Starring Dennis Quaid, Rachel Griffiths and Brian Cox. Directed by John Lee Hancock. Written by Mike Rich. Produced by Gordon Gray, Mark Ciardi and Mark Johnson. A Buena Vista release. Drama. Rated G. Running time: 129 min

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