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Alex Stroup, editor

Mr. 3000

Disney leaves more men on base at the end of the inning

Thursday, September 16, 2004
by Alex Stroup, MousePlanet editor

If I had my way, this would be the entirety of my review:

“Meh.”

Unfortunately, my editor tells me I can't do that. This is a year in which Disney has had a lot of financial flops and a few truly terrible movies. Mr. 3000 continues the recent trend of completely forgettable, mildly entertaining movies that fill two hours and leave you walking out of the theater without feeling burned, but also without feeling very good.

Mr. 3000 is a tale of redemption—another in the long string of movies that perpetuates the silly dream that you can be a total jerk for your entire life as long as you're nice before you die.

In it, Bernie Mac plays Stan Ross, one of the great baseball hitters of all time. Nine years ago on the day that he gets his 3,000th hit and assures himself entry into the Hall of Fame, he retires from the game and begins a series of “Mr. 3000” businesses. Throughout his career, he had been equally selfish and rude with reporters as well as fans.

The reason he quit is because in baseball, 3,000 hits is a bit of a magic number. While it doesn't officially grant automatic induction into the Hall of Fame, the only players to have reached that number and not been inducted are Pete Rose (who would be if it weren't for that gambling thing) and Rickey Henderson (who will be when he's eligible).


©Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

Unfortunately for Mr. Stan Ross, nine years later (and approaching the end of his Hall of Fame eligibility), it is learned that three of his hits were counted twice and he is actually Mr. 2,997. Going in to the movie, I was mostly concerned with them finding a plausible reason why such a screw-up would have been made in our stat-crazy age. Surprisingly, they came up with a pretty good one. Not surprisingly, reality quickly slips through the fingers of director Charles Stone and writers Eric Champnella and Keith Mitchell.

After learning this, Ross decides to return to baseball at the age of 48 to get those three hits. Fortunately for him, the general manager (Chris Noth) of his old team, the Milwaukee Brewers, is a man with apparently no interest in baseball, but only in how many seats have butts in them.

First of all, it is impossible to imagine anybody associated with the Milwaukee Brewers doing something not in the best interests of baseball. Second of all, once committed, Ross gets into game shape in just a month. Finally, if it were so easy to fill seats with publicity stunts, Rickey Henderson would still be playing somewhere, going for more records.

Needless to say, on his bumpy road to three hits, Ross learns that he loved the game, loved the fans, and loved Angela Bassett (and who wouldn't). Sadly, Bassett is shackled by inanity as Mo Sullivan. She is now a reporter for ESPN and is assigned to cover the comeback story. Apparently, neither she nor her producers have a problem with a reporter having slept with the subject of her story. When she inevitably takes up with him again, there is no sense that there might be a problem with a reporter currently sleeping with the subject of her story. Ultimately not important, but it was one of those needless depatures from reality that can really take you out of a movie.


©Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

With Bassett stuck with lameness, Mr. 3000 is truly a test of whether Bernie Mac can carry a movie on his own. He has had several notable supporting roles but hasn't before been the lead. He definitely has charisma. You kind of like him no matter how selfish or rude he is being. Every time he smiles with those preternaturally white teeth you like him a bit more.

It really is too bad he is the only one making an effort; apparently he didn't get a memo that they were just making a standard feel-good, personal-growth movie. Season 2 of Law & Order reunited with appearances by Chris Noth and Paul Sorvino in which they do nothing, literally, in the case of Sorvino's non-reactive role as manager of the Brewers.

While the movie takes too long to get to its predictable moment of truth, it is also easy to see how another 15 or 20 minutes could have helped quite a bit. The transformation of Stan Ross into a human being seems rushed and without sufficient cause.

If you see this movie, you won't feel like you completely wasted your time, though parents should be warned that swearing is prevalent for no good reason. But in this last month of real baseball, a better idea might be to take a cooler down to your local ballpark and watch real old guys try swing the bat.


Paper Clips

Small-town school project touches the world

Thursday, September 16, 2004
by Alex Stroup, MousePlanet editor

Paper Clips is not a movie that is going to be widely marketed and probably won't make it into most of the smaller markets. If you get the chance, particularly if you have tweener children, you may want to seek it out.

In the rural Tennessee town of Whitwell, the principal of the middle school had concerns about the homogeneous environment in which the children were growing up, and how that would affect them. The students were entirely Protestant, with no Catholics or Jews (and certainly no Muslims); there were one Hispanic and five black students. Living in a coal mining town in which there was no coal mine, they all even came from similar economic situations. Realizing this, Principal Linda Hooper wanted to make sure the students knew that the whole world wasn't like Whitwell, and she set two of her teachers to come up with a program.

They decided to set up a group of students who would study the Holocaust. Eventually one of the students, overwhelmed by the idea, asked for help in visualizing six million, the number of Jews killed. And so began a project that would eventually come to infect the whole town and bring them recognition from around the world.

This is not a cinematic documentary. It is plain looking, and it doesn't have much flair. It is told entirely by the subjects of the film, though some bits do seem scripted or rehearsed. In the end, though, it is difficult to tell a story about the Holocaust without touching a nerve.

Along with 30 million paper clips came more than 20,000 letters explaining why someone was moved to donate. Many of these will leave you at least on the verge of tears.

At its heart, though, this is a story of young children finding something larger than themselves in the world; giving of themselves and learning about others. I expect this movie will become a staple of middle school teachers trying to get their students to invest themselves in something. In an overly ironic age, it is good to be reminded that people still do things just because they seem like a good thing to bring into the world.

It is difficult to recommend spending your $9 for this, but if you have a child (or an adult, for that matter) you want to inspire to action it is certainly worth checking out when it hits DVD.


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Alex here.


MR. 3000

Mr. 3000 is a Touchstone Pictures release

Wide theatrical release: Friday, September 17, 2004

Directed by Charles Stone III.

Screenplay by Eric Champnella and Keith Mitchell.

Starring: Bernie Mac, Angela Bassett, Chris Noth, and Brian J. White.

Rated PG-13 for sexual content and language.

Running time: 115 minutes.

Alex's Rating: 5 out of 10

PAPER CLIPS

Paper Clips is a Miramax release

Limited theatrical release beginning September 17, 2004; check local listings.

Directed by Elliot Berlin and Joe Fab.

Screenplay by Joe Fab.

Rated G.

Running time: 89 minutes.

Alex's Rating: 7 out of 10

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alex Stroup is a degreed librarian with an undergraduate degree in history. An avid reader, movie buff, and devoted “information junkie,” Alex currently lives and works in the Northern California Bay Area. Alex is also the CEO of MousePlanet.

Click here to contact Alex.

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