Ya Gotta Believe!
Reviewer: Aisoorya Vijayakumar
Reviewer: Aisoorya Vijayakumar
Angels in the Outfield – a comedy on baseball, faith and hope that runs close to 1 hr 45 minutes with a surprising PG rating (considering that in the present day, parents are the ones who need their children's grudging guidance in understanding the expletives rampant in what are deemed to be today's civilized movie masterpieces).
Produced by Irby Smith, Joe Roth, and Roger Birnbaum, and released and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures, the movie was conceived as a fresh modern-day version of the 1951-classic of the same name.
It stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Danny Glover, Christopher Lloyd, Brenda Fricker, Tony Danza, Matthew McConaughey, and many others. Carney Lansford, a former baseball player (California Angels, 1978-1980), decided to try his hand at a different game altogether when he starred as Kit "Hit or Die" Kesey in this movie.
The movie was directed by William Dear, best known for his not-just-run-of-the-mill films, Harry and the Hendersons, Wild America, and If Looks Could Kill. Dear was lent help by Randy Edelman who scored the music, and Matthew Leonetti who wielded the camera.
Dorothy Kingsley, George Wells, and Holly Goldberg penned the screenplay , leaning on the original 1951-script and screenplay by Dorothy Kingsley, George Wells, and Richard Conlin, for support.
Released on July 15, 1994.
How did the movie fare?
Rotten Tomatoes gave this movie a 40 % rating on its tomatometer. Despite the movie facing an identity crisis battle with some critics crushing the moviemakers, calling the movie a childish downright waste-of-time as in the case of Reel Reviews, cynicism could not really hold this movie back from winning the hearts of many.
Did we like it?
At some points, a doubtful not-so-loud 'Yes' but at many, a resounding 'Of course!' In order to look at the movie objectively, one should really grasp what they try to tell us at the end of it all – “ya gotta believe” – may be not in Omnipotent Divinity, but in oneself! Because, as the chief angel in the movie says, when it really matters, no angel helps you out and “Championships have to be won on your own. It's a rule.”
Let's dissect the movie to decide if it would be a worthwhile watch.
Fire (the plot and theme): The movie lies on a very unassuming frame with no intrigue what-so-ever. The plot, as such, is no mighty task to untangle and revolves around Roger and JP, sheltered in a foster home. His father's sarcastic and casual remark that they would be 'family again' when the California Angels win the baseball pennant seeds colorful hopes in Roger's heart, who fervently prays for heavenly intervention in the scheme of things. On hearing his plea, a team of angels led by Al, descend to diminish the angst from the boy's mind. The angels weed out the insecurities and indifferences that the baseball team seems to be pregnant with and pave the way for them to climb to the top of the rankings. Do the angels go on to win a momentous victory in the yearly tournament and make Roger’s prayers come true?. At the risk of sounding very far-fetched, the plot talks about a series of monumental events that change the life of a whole team, all in answer to a child's prayer. With the characteristic flaws that any happily-ever-after script and screenplay would possess, this one too plays right into the hands of critics to claim that the storyline leaves much to be desired.
Water (characterization and narration): The transformation of a grumpy old baseball team manager to a tender 'grandpa'ish man who plays with the neighborhood kids is a lifetime journey, beautifully brought to life in the character of George Knox. But the integrity thrust on the actors gets more than what you can digest beyond a point and one has only a caustic-tongued snobbish commentator for company. The villainy in the latter comes almost as a breath of fresh air when one gets suffocated being amidst a bunch of do-gooders. The movie's pace is wonderful, neither tauntingly slow, nor dazingly fast.
Air (actors and performances): Danny Glover needs to be lauded for his portrayal of a cranky, ever-swearing, impatient-to-death baseball team manager, George Knox. Gordon-Levitt shows precocious maturity with his acting prowess in his role of Roger, the boy who makes it all happen. Fricker and Lloyd have done their roles to prefection, as the foster home caretaker and the chief angel respectively, and have blended with their roles. The support cast, though not really etching themselves in memory, have done convincingly good jobs.
Earth (music and camera): Music deserves a bow in this venture. Never too dreamy, never too raspy, it soothes pained nerves. Cinematography is exceptionally good, with the animated angel sequences with human faces seamlessly blending into the mainstream action. Graphics have been paid careful attention to, as explicit in Al the angel's maneuvers.
Space (dialogues): Witty and memorable. The painstakingly tailored dialogues match the capabilities of a 12-year-old teary-eyed boy, as they do a funny morally right angel, not to speak of a grouchy old man who thrives on blasphemy and personal insults. Some lines which fail to fade from the memory include -
“God... if there is a God... if you're a man or a woman... if you're listening, I'd really, really like a family. My dad says that will only happen if the Angels win the pennant. The baseball team, I mean. So, maybe you can help them win a little. Amen. Oh, A-woman, too.“ (Roger Bomman)
“You don't think as a team, you don't play as a team, you don't even LOSE as a team!” (George Knox)
“You can't go through life thinking everyone you meet will one day let you down.” (George Knox)
“We're 'AL'ways watching!” (The movie's finishing lines by Al the Chief Angel)
What's our verdict?
The movie steers clear of most of the expected frivolities such as bad acting, bad background scores, bad dialogues, and bad treatment, and has elicited only the best from the crew. Given the challenges in penning a dreamy script, we think the movie deserves a 7 on 10 rating,
So, given! The movie doesn't try to wear a preachy cloak and make us all believers at one go. But, as JP says, “it could happen!”
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