Retro Review: The Rookie

Written: March 18, 2002

What is it about the majesty of baseball that has enchanted filmmakers for so many years? From “Pride of the Yankees” to “Field of Dreams” to “61*”, Hollywood continues its affection and admiration for the sport again in “The Rookie”.

“The Rookie” tells the true story of Jimmy Morris (Dennis Quaid), a thirty-seven year old science teacher and part-time baseball coach who missed his chance at major league baseball when he suffered from an injury.

While practicing with his high-school students, Morris learns that his constant practicing since the injury has resulted in an ability to pitch faster and harder than he ever could before.

Morris’s dreams had been dashed and he didn’t want to risk his new family on trying to follow his dream again.

Morris makes a deal with his struggling baseball team that if they start to win and go to state, he will try out for the major leagues again. This promise gives the kids new found energy and they do just that. Now it is up to aging Morris to keep his promise.

Directed by John Lee Hancock, who is best known for his television work on critically acclaimed and short-lived shows such as “Falcone” and “L.A. Doctors”, “The Rookie” hits very close to home as it pulls at your heart strings and makes you think of your family.

The film is one of those “feel-good” films that critics scream bloody murder about. I am not one of those critics because here we have a film we can finally take the whole family to and not worry about sexual innuendos.

I liked “The Rookie” because of Dennis Quaid. I haven’t seen Quaid bring this much to a film since before his marriage to Meg Ryan. Back in 1983 (pre-Ryan), Quaid made a lot of good films including “Innerspace”, “Dreamscape”, “The Big Easy” and his amazing performance as Jerry Lee Lewis in “Great Balls of Fire!” to name a few.

After his nuptials to Ryan in 1991, Quaid seemed to play a lot of smaller roles or very forgettable roles. Now after Ryan, Quaid has had an up-swing in his career with strong performances in “Frequency” and “Dinner with Friends”.

His performance in “The Rookie” is the probably the best hi-light of that up-swing. Quaid’s performance in this film reminded me a lot of Kevin Costner’s in “Field of Dreams”. There is a lot of warmth, frustration and awe in his portrayal of Jimmy Morris.

Rachel Griffiths (of TV’s “Six Feet Under”) plays Morris’s wife, Lorrie, and she does bring a lot of down-home support and love for her on-screen husband. But like Amy Madigan in “Field of Dreams”, Griffiths’s role is very underused and very played down.

In the early stages of “The Rookie”, I thought that the film emulated some of the feelings I got from watching the Robert Redford baseball movie, “The Natural”.

As soon as that magnificent panoramic shot involving Jimmy Morris going from child to man came across the screen I knew where the picture was going. I loved that shot.

I am sure “The Rookie” is going to be remembered as one of those great baseball films because of its grandeur and honesty in telling the story of Jimmy Morris. But I hope it is also remembered as a great treat for the family.

(4 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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