Release Date:  September 24, 2004
Rating:  PG-13 (for sexual content and language)
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Run Time: 1 hr. 44 min.
Director:  Charles Stone III
Actors:    Bernie Mac, Angela Bassett, Michael Rispoli, Brian J. White, Chris Noth, Paul Sorvino

Oh, Disney!  What a disappointment that you had to muck up an otherwise perfect family film with so much language and sex.  I laughed, and most audiences will too, but no kid under 16 should go near this film.  Which really is a shame, because it has a great message.

Baseball superstar Stan Ross (Bernie Mac) is about to get his 3,000th hit on base and a spot in the sports Hall of Fame.  An arrogant, self-centered loudmouth who cares for no one but himself, Stan has alienated his fellow players and the media with his Barry Bonds-like behavior.  So when he finally gets his big hit, it’s no surprise that he dumps his team, the Milwaukee Brewers, when they need him most.

Nine years later, Ross is a successful businessman with a slew of stores and restaurants called “Mr. 3,000.”  But, what a surprise, the sports writers still haven’t voted him into the Hall of Fame.  So Stan cooks up a scheme that is sure to win him his due.  But, just as he’s about to be accepted, someone discovers a mistake in the calculations.  Apparently, one of Stan’s games was counted twice, leaving him three shy of 3,000.

What’s a 48-year-old player to do, especially when his livelihood – not to mention his ego – is hanging on that number?  Go back, of course, and do what he needs to do, no doubt in the first game.  Unfortunately, however, the Brewers have to take him back.  And baseball isn’t what it used to be.  Neither is Stan.

Director Charles Stone III (“Drumline”) does a decent job with this predictable but funny script, in which Mac serves up his usual brand of smart-aleck humor.  With his mean-spirited stare, Mac is the perfect Stan, and his one-liners like “You’re more hungry than a hostage!” will keep audiences laughing.  But Mac also manages to elicit sympathy, despite his wretched personality.  In one poignant scene, we see the abject cruelty of the media – how they discuss people as if they aren’t listening and have no feelings, stripping them apart, dissecting their every move and viciously mocking every weakness.

Like the plot, which revolves around the discovery that “there is no ‘I’ in team,” the music is one cliché after another.  We’re treated to “YMCA,” “I Feel Good,” “Let’s Get It On,” “When  You Wish Upon a Star” and “Let’s Groove Tonight,” to name just a few.  But it’s all in good fun, and it is fun.  As the ESPN sportswriter who still has a thang for her former beau, Angela Bassett does what she can with her stock role, as does Brian White as a younger version of Stan.  Of course, Bassett’s also one of the best actresses in Hollywood.  Paul Sorvino plays the Brewer’s tight-lipped manager, whom Stone makes great use of for dramatic effect.  And Michael Rispoli plays Boca, Stan’s best friend who’s known more for his loyalty than his advice.

The message of the film is a good one.  Not only does it reinforce the importance of teamwork, but it also vividly demonstrates the perils of pride.  With Stan’s prideful arrogance come isolation, alienation and ultimately, desolation, that no amount of money or fame can erase.  And, while Stan does come to grips with his sins, after he’s been humbled, he falls right back into them as soon as success arrives again, showing how deceptive pride is.  Interesting, for a man who has reportedly struggled with lots of anger toward Hollywood.  Maybe Mac is warning himself as much as others in his high-stakes arena.