The indomitable spirit of Christopher Reeve shines through this little story of a boy who will not give up his quest to retrieve the baseball bat belonging to the greatest player ever, Babe Ruth.
Ten-year-old Yankee Irving (that’s his name) loves baseball, but when he stands at the plate, the kids in the outfield jeer, “Easy out!”
He loves the game and dreams of playing in the major leagues. But he is ready to give up trying to play when he finds a talking baseball (voice of Rob Reiner) in the sandlot. He brings it home and then takes it with him to bring dinner to his father, who works at Yankee Stadium. While he is there, Babe Ruth’s bat Darlin’ is stolen by a pitcher for the Chicago Cubs. But Yankee Irving’s father is blamed, and he is fired. Yankee and his talking baseball go out to bring it back home.
They have many adventures and encounters along the way, most notably with a young girl who teaches him to throw a ball. When he tells her he needs to get to Chicago to give the bat to the Babe, she sends him to her baseball player father so he can travel on the team bus, where he gets some lessons about balance and hitting a ball. He finally makes it to Chicago, where he gets a chance to make his grandest dreams come true.
The animation is uninspired, except for a couple of lively moments, most notably a chase scene when Lefty the cheating Cubs pitcher has to dodge a barrage of hazards. And the voice talent adds some warmth and character, especially Whoopi Goldberg as Darlin’ the bat, William H. Macy as Lefty, and the world’s most instantly recognizable “surprise guest star” as the choleric head of the Cubs. The late Dana Reeves is quietly lovely as the voice of Yankee’s mother, and the poignance of her loss as well as her husband’s adds to the movie’s theme of never giving up on dreams.
Parents should know that this movie has some mild schoolyard language and potty jokes. The issue of the segregated Negro League is handled in a respectful, understated way, but parents should be prepared to talk with children about why whites and blacks played on different teams.
Families who see this movie should talk about who in the movie is everyone’s hero? Why? What does it mean that “it’s not the bat, but the batter” and “just keep swinging?” Have you ever had something that made you feel lucky? Why were the bullies so mean to Yankee at the beginning of the movie? What will they be like when he gets home? Families with very young children will want to remind them that in real life children are not allowed to go off without their parents.
Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Chicken Little and some of the many wonderful films about baseball, especially It Happens Every Spring (a professor becomes an unbeatable pitcher when he invents a chemical to put on the ball that repells wood), Angels in the Outfield (the original is the best version but the remake is pretty good, too), Take Me Out to the Ballgame (with Gene Kelly as a dancing ball-player), Damn Yankees (a Washington Senators fan sells his soul to the devil to beat the Yankees), Rookie of the Year, The Sandlot, and The Rookie. Older audiences should watch Ken Burns’ 9-part series Baseball. They might also like to visit the Babe Ruth Museum in Baltimore and the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.