Everyone's Hero

Baseball: the national pastime. Actually, now days, it might better be referred to as the “national past time.” Baseball doesn’t get the attention it used to. You don’t see as many communities gathering around televisions and radios to see who’s at bat. The race to break the home run record breathed new life into the game a few years ago, but for the most part more people tend to watch “Survivor” than to watch the average, non-World Series game of baseball. For many, the magic is lost. For some though, the magic is still there, and movies like Everyone’s Hero tries to recapture the excitement of baseball in its heyday, 1932, the year Babe Ruth made his famous called shot.

Ten-year old Yankee Irving is a huge baseball fan in a time of baseball legends. With his name, it’s no surprise that his favorite team is the New York Yankees, but Yankee himself isn’t much of a player. Nothing stops his excitement of the game, however: not being picked last by sandlot teams, not striking out when he was told not even to swing, not even the magical talking baseball Yankee finds who has itself lost appreciation for baseball (he wanted to be a home run ball and ended up getting knocked out of the field as a foul). When Yankee starts to lose his love of baseball he just visits his dad at work: Yankee Stadium, where his dad’s the janitor.

A movie about a boy’s enthusiasm for baseball doesn’t make much of a movie, talking baseball or not. Yankee’s father ends up getting fired when Babe Ruth’s baseball bat, Darlin’, is stolen. Yankee sets out to find the stolen bat, get his dad’s job back, and help his beloved Yankees win the World Series. Pretty lofty goals for a kid and a magic baseball, eh?

The movie’s plot is pretty well stretched numerous times throughout the story. It’s hard to believe a kid like Yankee could be as resourceful as he winds up being, and that his opposition, Lefty Maginnis, the pitcher for the Chicago Cubs who stole Babe’s bat, could be so incompetent. Add to that some predictable plot devices that teach Yankee how to be a better baseball player (important for the all-too predictable final act) and the movie stretches the imagination. On top of that, the movie is set in a famous year for baseball, but despite the setting of the 1982 World Series, Ruth’s famous called shot is neither shown nor mentioned. Did it just not happen in this movie’s alternate history? Instead, according to this picture, the Cubs tied up the Yankees due to the bambino’s missing bat, centering the film’s final act around a fictitious seventh game.

At the same time, the film has some weird things going on behind the scenes. Not so big oddities are lead character voice Jake T. Austin becoming this year’s poster child for picked-on kids between this and The Ant Bully or Rob Reiner (as the talking baseball) sounding a little too similar to his pop for me to recognize the voice. Instead look at Whoopi Goldberg, who voices Darlin’ (yes, the bat can also speak) and Robin Williams, who takes an uncredited role as the serious villain of the picture, the Cubs’ manager. The two of them being involved isn’t so strange (although Goldberg affecting a Southern lilt for a New York baseball player’s bat is a bit odd) as the absence of the duo’s baseball-obsessed friend Billy Crystal. Maybe nobody else made that connection, but it certainly stood out to me. Meanwhile, the film’s advertising has almost completely left out the fact that this was directed in part by Christopher Reeve, who passed away before the film’s completion (Yankee’s mother is voiced by Dana Reeve, who also passed away before seeing the final product). Would the knowledge of the Reeves involvement added additional weight to the film’s message: “no matter where life takes you, always keep swinging” or should we be grateful the advertising hasn’t hit us over the head with a grim reminder of the Reeves passing?

All of those problems are superfluous to the movie’s target audience, however. The children in the audience at my showing giggled at the movie’s thankfully few fart jokes, laughed as Lefty bumbled through situations allowing Yankee to persevere, and literally cheered at the movie’s finale. It’s unlikely many of them noticed how beautiful the movie’s animation made some settings look, but perhaps one or two of them even left with an interest for a sport that doesn’t get the attention it once achieved. Maybe one of them even now hold a dream of standing on home plate in a stadium filled with cheering fans. Overused plot devices and odd character voicing aside, even I left the theatre wishing I could return to the days when I was a lot more like Yankee Irving than I’d care to admit, and that someone had told me to keep on swinging, keeping the magic of baseball alive.