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Rookie of the Year

Directed by Daniel Stern. Starring Thomas Ian Nicholas, Gary Busey, Albert Hall, Amy Morton, Dan Hedaya, Bruce Altman, Daniel Stern, Eddie Bracken.

REVIEWED By Hollis Chacona, Fri., July 9, 1993

Maybe I should be feeling as guilty as I think Joel Siegel should feel every time he delivers an oh-so-heartfelt hurrah for “the feel-good movie of the summer” (even if it is, say, his twelfth feel-good movie of the summer). Maybe I've had it up to my armpits with celluloid-spawned know-it-all, smart-mouthed kids and know-nothing, irresponsible adults. Maybe I'm one run down in the bottom of the ninth and swinging at a real sucker pitch, but I went after Rookie of the Year... fast ball, curve ball and sinker. Henry Rowengartner (Nicholas) is a likeable 12-year-old boy who, like millions of other 12-year-old (or 40-year-old) boys, fantasizes in glorious Technicolor about making it in the big leagues. Then one day, while going for an easy pop fly, Henry trips on a ball, tears up his arm and spends the summer in a weirdly angular cast. Weirder still is the result of four months in such a contraption. Henry's arm heals abnormally, giving his scrawny tendons the torque power of the average tornado. One fantastical event follows another, and Henry finds himself suited up and pitching in the big leagues, sort of. He's the new star pitcher of the (who else?) Chicago Cubs. The movie has a charming mix of sensible, earthbound characters and silly, over-the-top caricatures. Henry, his mom Mary (played in a refreshingly unglamorous turn by Morton) and his reluctant hero/has-been pitcher (Busey) ground the picture in the warm comfort of daily life while the never-quite-recovered-from-a-pitching-accident coach Brickma (Stern at his goofiest) and Cubs owner Mr. Carson (Eddie Bracken at his Eddie Brackenest) give it a dizzying screwball tilt. It seems Stern the director learned a few things from his acting work and stint as a TV narrator -- enough, at any rate, to give Rookie of the Year a wonder of its own.
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