Angels in the Outfield
1994 Directed by William Dear. Starring Danny Glover, Brenda Fricker, Tony Danza, Christopher Lloyd, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Johnson.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., July 15, 1994
Disney, what hast thou wrought? It is baseball season, sure, but this new entry from the kings of kiddie cinema is a family-oriented heartstring-yanker so syrupy-sweet in its depictions of the game, angels, orphans, children's wishes, and estranged parents, that it may be all you can do to keep from taking a Louisville Slugger to the projectionist. Disney's live-action family film department hasn't had a real winner since the Mets last took the pennant, and this homage to childhood magic that plays like an old Rod Serling castoff never even gets up to bat. Gordon-Levitt is young Roger, a lonely foster child (his parents are separated, not dead, and if that isn't a mile-high set-up for a happy ending, I don't know what is) and baseball fan who, one evening, utters a bedtime prayer for his favorite team, the Oakland A's, who are in spitting distance of becoming the next Seattle Mariners. Unsurprisingly, his prayers are answered in the form of Christopher Lloyd as Al the Angel, who comes to the aid of the struggling ball team and empowers them with a bit of divine assistance. When Roger points the invisible benefactors out to the team manager, George Knox (Glover), he becomes the team mascot and the route is seen clear for a winning season, reunited families, and whatever else needs to be fixed. Angels in the Outfield has a simple, ever-timely message tagged onto it -- have faith in what you believe -- but director Dear (Harry and the Hendersons) has the increasingly annoying habit of telegraphing every available plot point seemingly years in advance. The scenes of the A's on the field are shot with a sure hand, and there are some genuinely affecting moments in the film, but it's hardly enough to save Angels, which has the dubious honor of having been made before (and slightly better) by MGM in 1951.