When 10-year-old Yankee Irving (Jake T. Austin) heads to Chicago in order to return a stolen bat, Darlin’ (Whoopi Goldberg), to Babe Ruth (Brian Dennehy), the corny piece of wood swipes my only joke by accusing the boy’s ball, Screwie (Rob Reiner), of being made from the hide of Seabiscuit. To understand what’s wrong with this film it’s perhaps necessary to hold it up to the light in one hand and Monster House in the other: One film justifies—spiritually and emotionally—why a house might come to life, while the other doesn’t even try to explain why a ball and a bat are able to talk to the story’s main character. Their anthropomorphism isn’t even a matter of faith—it’s just random (cute little things used to keep the preschool crowd sedated, except your child might need to be a fan of Jackie Mason to be thrilled by Reiner’s svelting cheeseball). And though the story is set during the Great Depression, the film’s period detail, save for a banner that acknowledges the Negro Baseball League, is almost nonexistent (the soundtrack of pop tunes isn’t even loyal to the time period like Christina Aguilera’s sketchy Back to Basics). Unlike Monster House and The Iron Giant, there’s no sense of magic and danger to this bland animation, which illuminates nothing (it’s just a chase film with a self-fulfilling conclusion) or enriches the possibilities of its genre. It would appear that more attention has gone into marketing (read: exploiting) the film as Christopher Reeve’s last creative hurrah than into the making of the film itself.
Score:Cast: Rob Reiner, Whoopi Goldberg, Jake T. Austin, William H. Macy, Mandy Patinkin, Raven-Symoné, Brian Dennehy, Dana Reeve, Cherise Boothe, Ed Helms, Robert Wagner Director: Colin Brady, Daniel St. Pierre, Christopher Reeve Screenwriter: Jeff Hand, Robert Kurtz Distributor: 20th Century Fox Running Time: 90 min Rating: PG Year: 2006 Buy: Video, Soundtrack