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Today's word on journalism

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Paranoia means having all the facts."

--William S. Burroughs, Beat Generation writer (1914-1997)

Almost 'Everyone's Hero'

By Ryan Pence

September 21, 2006 | Finally the answer to an age-old question: What did the bat say to the ball?

Well, not a whole lot. They just did a lot of arguing. I guess the scriptwriters thought it would be funny to see a bat and a ball argue, highlighted by the title character, Yankee Irving, being chased by a washed-out Cubs pitcher.

Story. As with most animated films this one has a very simple plot. The Chicago Cubs owner wants to win the World Series vs. the New York Yankees, so he hires washed-out pitcher Lefty Maginnis to steal Babe Ruth's lucky baseball bat, Darlin'. On the night Lefty steals the bat, Yankee Irving drops off dinner for his dad, eventually his dad lets him into the Yankees' locker room, and Yankee sees for the first time Babe Ruth's bat. Yankee's dad then leaves to lock up the stadium. When this happens a disguised Lefty steals the bat. So of course the Yankees' General Managers fire Yankee Irving's dad because they suspected him. But Yankee blames himself and runs away to find the bat and travel all the way to Chicago to return it to Babe Ruth.

Characters. The main characters are Darlin', a self-centered egotistical baseball bat; Screwie, a baseball that wants to spend the rest of his existence decomposing under a rusting car in a neighborhood sandlot; Yankee Irving, a kid who loves baseball but is not very good at it, and somehow finds a way to blame himself for his dad losing his job and decides to find a stolen baseball bat and travel on foot to Chicago. Finally there's Lefty Maginnis, the stooge of the group. He is the unfortunate bad guy hired to steal the bat, who then loses it and and tries to get it back from the kid, Yankee. All of the physical humor comes from Lefty's character.

Music. The soundtrack has been said to make up half the movie. It helps set the mood and aids in the storytelling. I'm not sure what happened, maybe someone was absent at one or two production meetings; maybe someone liked a song too much and couldn't let it go. The point is, the soundtrack was horrible, the mood was altered in the wrong way, and I even found myself at times cringing and looking around the theatre to see if I was the only one offended by this. Apparently I was; there was no one else in the theatre. I guess they all left during the first ill-placed piano solo 10 minutes into the film. The point is the music, songs -- whatever ­ they were just distracting. They may have belonged in a film, but not this one.

Bottom Line. The problems that this movie faced are fairly easy ones to solve: write engaging dialog, tie the title someway into the film, have the soundtrack fit the mood or at least let it fit somewhere in the movie. I believe that if Christopher Reeve, the director, hadn't died before finishing the project the movie would most likely have turned out a little bit better than it had. I recommend not seeing this movie, but if you to do it at around 1 a.m. when you're sure to find at least one scene funny.

Rating. G.

Ryan's Movie Picks. As computer-animated movies go, here are some real winners.

Toy Story 2. The crème de le crème of computer animated movies -- surprisingly better than the original. Toy Story 2 adds depths to the original movie by adding a more engaging plot. Woody a toy cowboy is stolen by toy collector Al. After that, Buzz Lightyear and a legion of popular toy figures embark on a mission to save Woody. The movie is creative and humorous ­ fun for all ages.

Shrek 2. Mike Meyers and Eddie Murphy reprise their roles as Shrek and Donkey in this uproarious comedy about an ogre, Shrek, meeting the parents of his wife, Fiona (Cameron Diaz), in the land of Far Far Away. Things start getting good when Fiona's dad hires Puss 'n' Boots (Antonio Banderas) to kill Shrek, but fails. There are a lot of laughs in this one, with plenty of references to pop culture at every turn.

Ice Age. A woolly mammoth, sloth and saber-tooth tiger make up and unusual herd of animals on a mission to return a human baby to its family. In their travels, they have various encounters with danger, not to mention a scene with dodo birds. This movie is fun, comical and uplifting.

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