I usually like Bernie Mac nearly anywhere I see him. He’s funny, but not in that wacky, goofy, over the top way just about every semi-decent comedian seems to be settling for this millennium. He’s funny because he’s gruff, rude, whiny, and at the same time weirdly huggable. He’s transitioned that into a successful and hilarious television show as well as some great supporting roles in notable films like Bad Santa. In Mr. 3000 that Bernie Mac ego-centric complaint charisma is still going strong, but the movie drags so much in the opening acts that it saps much of the funny right out of his performance.
The setup is at its root, just another sports cliché. A selfish player “gets his” and then screws his team over, retiring to enjoy his money and fame. In fact it happened just this year with Ricki Williams, who retired in his prime to enjoy money, fame, and really good drugs. In this case it’s egotistical Milwaukee Brewers baseball player Stan (Bernie Mac) who retires immediately after making his 3000th base hit. With the magical 3000 under his belt, Stan is guaranteed a place in the Hall of Fame, no matter how much everyone hates him for abandoning his team in the midst of a pennant race. Nine years later Stan has adopted the nickname “Mr. 3000” and uses it to market a host of business ventures. It’s his year to get elected into the Hall, but someone has made a mistake. They miscounted his hits, he only has 2997. Without that magic 3000, his chance for immortality evaporates leaving the now old, overweight, and lazy Stan only one choice: Rejoin the Brewers and get three more hits.
The problem here is that it takes nearly an hour just to set all this up. The movie works best when Stan is with the team hitting balls, back talking young players, and trading barbs with the over-zealous (and occasionally sexy) media. But Mr. 3000 takes forever to get there. Though Bernie does his best to deliver his trademark grumpiness, the film wastes it on endless setup scenes meant to portray him as a selfish prick, something which we all had figured out within the first ten minutes. I grew bored with Mr. 3000 long before it started getting good. So bored that even when things picked up and Bernie finally has enough room to deliver a few laughs, they’d already lost me.
Still, the on field action, once it happens is good. I like the way 3000 director Charles Stone shoots his baseball games, zooming in and blurring out sections of the picture to help us focus in on key player movements or blasting the camera straight backwards into the air to follow an errant foul ball. I also liked the chemistry Mac had with the team and the quick quips he comes up with to explain his often brazenly selfish behavior.
Mac’s good, the look is good, the story is just too slow. By the time it gets to the point I no longer care about Stan’s redemption or the subtle way he turns around the flailing Brewers by becoming a team player. On its own all that is sort of interesting to watch, but aside from Stan the rest of the team is really kept at a distance. At best I only had a passing interest in Stan and absolutely none in whether the rest of his team succeeds or fails.
Mr. 3000 is basically a watered down version of Major League with a lot less baseball. The loser team is given a handful of generic quirks to slightly differentiate them, Bernie comes in, makes some jokes, gets a love interest (the wasted Angela Basset), they all learn some lessons, Bernie leaves and becomes a better person. It’s not a terrible formula and with Mac as the focus it isn’t exactly painful, but Mr. 3000 isn’t the sort of gem you need to bother seeking out either. It’s passable comedy that takes too long to get to the good jokes. I’d rather see Bernie Mac pick up a few nice supporting roles instead.