Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Angels in the Outfield
Director: William Dear
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Danny Glover, Christopher Lloyd, Brenda Fricker, Tony Danza, Matthew McConaughey, Adrien Brody, Dermot Mulroney
Released: July 15, 1994

Not only is this movie pre-10 Things I Hate About You (which is the first Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie I saw where I knew who he was), but it also predates Third Rock From the Sun by two years, probably the role he was first known for. I remember seeing this in the theater with a friend. It was either this or Rookie of the Year, but I'm pretty sure it was this one, though it's possible I saw both of them. I haven't seen this movie in a very long time so I was a little surprised to see two future Oscar winners as baseball players: Adrien Brody plays Hemmerling and Matthew McConaughey plays Angels outfielder Ben Williams. Both of them probably have less than five minutes of screen time combined with only a couple of lines each. 

Even though he is credited around fourth or fifth, JGL as Roger Bomman is definitely the lead. I could understand if they put Danny Glover first since he was a big name, but JGL should have at least been credited second, come on! 

Roger lives in a short-term foster care home because his mom is deceased and his dad (Dermot Mulroney) is a deadbeat. They don't really explain why he can't take care of his son. He has told Roger in the past that he's going to be his legal guardian, but things never seem to work out that way. He does occasionally keep in touch with Roger and visits him at his foster home to tell him he's heading up north. When Roger asks his father when they're going to be a family again, his father replies, "When the Angels win the pennant." This is a snarky response because the Angels, Roger's favorite team, are just God-awful, so in other words, he's saying that the Angels will never win and they will never be a family. What a nice guy.

However, Roger is bit of a naive and hopeful kid and when he goes to bed that night, he looks out the window and sees a shooting star. He whispers a prayer to God (he may be whispering, but I'm pretty sure his two other roommates can hear him) for the Angels to win. The next day he and his best friend, J.P., who also lives at the foster home, go to a game because it's Kids' Day where kids get a discount on tickets. This is when we first see the angels helping the Angels and the only one who can actually see them in the movie is Roger. Two of them lift Matthew McConaughey so he can catch the ball. They also help a hopeless batter not only hit a home run, but he breaks the bat while doing so. The "angels" look pretty terrifying...that 1994 CGI (wait, was there even CGI in 1994?) looks pretty terrible. An astonished Roger asks J.P. if he saw what he did, but J.P. has no idea what he's talking about, so Roger turns his attention to the large man sitting next to him (and why is this grown man who's clearly not with Roger and J.P. sitting next to two underage boys...I'm just saying, it's a little weird) and asks him if he saw it too, but he said it was just a lucky catch. He gets up to leave and this is when Roger meets the Head Angel (Christopher Lloyd) who calls himself "Al" (because he's wearing an American League baseball cap.) He explains he's there because he asked for help and that only Roger can see and hear him. Of course, he's having a conversation with an invisible man while J.P. is sitting next to him, though J.P. doesn't ask who he's talking to until about two minutes later! If I were that kid and my friend started talking to somebody who clearly wasn't there, I would be interrupting that conversation about five seconds in! I did think it was funny when Roger tells his friend, "You didn't see them? There were Angels in the outfield! And in the infield!" and J.P. replies, "Yeah, nine of them!" They sure had to make it confusing by the team being named the Angels!

Due to the celestial beings, the Angels win the game and a few lucky kids have the chance to get their photo taken with Angels manager/coach, George Knox (Danny Glover). I feel like kids would be more excited to get their photo taken with one of their favorite players then the manager, but this scene is only here for Knox to meet Roger and J.P. While they're getting their photo taken, Roger blurts out about the angels helping the Angels and of course Knox thinks he's insane. Later, when he delivers the photo to Roger he asks him why would there be real angels at the ballgame and Roger replies, "Because I prayed for them. I figured you could use the help."

Knox invites the two kids to a ball game as his guests and while J.P and the kids' chaperone, David, are getting snacks, Al pops out of his fountain drink and Roger freaks out and of course he looks crazy because the people behind him are only seeing a kid freaking out over a soft drink. And he sounds insane when J.P. returns and he tells him, "I just saw an angel in my Coke cup!"

 Every time Roger sees an angel, he starts waving his arms like wings to signify he sees one. Whichever Angel is with an angel, Roger tells Knox to put that player in since they've been given the "magic touch". Because an angel is massaging Adrien Brody's shoulders, Roger tells Knox to put him him, despite him being the worst batter. An angel comes and slows the ball down so he can hit it. Then the ball starts moving around because Al is kicking and juggling it around and everyone just sees a ball go haywire. Because of this tomfoolery, the Angels win the game. Um....how in the hell did the opposing team NOT issue a complaint? There is some serious shady business going on! You would think they would want the ball inspected to make sure there's not a motor inside of it and someone else is controlling it. Because if I were in that stadium, that's what I would be thinking. However, that wouldn't explain how the ball slowed way down when it was being pitched to Adrien Brody. There's a thing called gravity and no way an object could just stay in the air like that. How come nobody is suspicious of THAT? But nobody seems to care or is asking any questions. Knox is so happy that they're winning and wants the kids to come to the rest of the games as good luck charms.

At the next game it is announced that there are more people in the seats than the last five games combined. We get a cute montage of the Angels winning game after game (with ridiculous tactics) with the audience singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." There is a headline in the paper that says "Angels Fly Together." Now you know they took this from D2: The Mighty Ducks as it is also a Disney movie and only came out only months before this one. I can't remember if "Ducks fly together" was uttered in the first movie, but it defintely was in the second one. "Angels fly together" doesn't quite work, because, at least, literal ducks really DO fly together and they are actually real! Angels aren't real and even if they were, would they even fly together? It just doesn't make any sense! Terrible headline.

During all this, Roger learns he's never going to live with his dad and will have to continue living with Maggie (Brenda Fricker), his short term caretaker until he is adopted. Now Brenda Fricker also played the pigeon lady in Home Alone 2 and I think you could say this movie is a continuation of that character. Think about it: this movie only came out a year and a half after Home Alone 2. We never learn her name in that movie, but in this one we find out it's Maggie. Maybe she decided to move to California to get a job helping kids without families after she saw how lucky Kevin was to have a loving family and wanted to help kids less fortunate than him. Doesn't really explain why she has an Irish accent in that movie (she did, right?) and an American accent in this one but you could say she accumulated to living in the United States.

There are no angels to help the Angels in the championship game because it's against the rules. (Oh, so NOW it's cheating if they help?) However, there is a nice moment when Roger, J.P., the players, and the entire stadium start flapping their arms to give support to pitcher Mel Clark (Tony Danza) who used to be the teams' star player, but has been wavering lately. This gives him the confidence he needs and he wins the game.  While it's a touching scene, logistically, it doesn't make any sense how everybody in the stadium has room to stretch out their arms and move them up and down...how do you not intertwine limbs while doing that? Although we do see some close ups and it looks a little awkward how some people are waving their arms so they don't hit the people next to them.

The movie ends with Knox adopting BOTH Roger and J.P. We never do learn anything about his life outside of coaching/managing the Angels. Is he married? Does he have any kids? No clue. I also had no clue that this movie is actually a remake of a 1951 movie. This was a fine movie, but it did get pretty hokey at times. 

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