Everyone's Hero

(2006) * G
88 min. 20th Century Fox. Directors: Colin Brady, Daniel St. Pierre, Christopher Reeve. Cast: Whoopi Goldberg, Rob Reiner, Jake T. Austin, William H. Macy, Brian Dennehy.

It's standard operating procedure for animated movies to anthropomorphize anything sentient, usually animals. Audiences can be sold on anthropomorphic inanimate objects (cars, toasters, and whatnot), but the further filmmakers tread from intelligent life, the more convincing we need to accept the world of the film, celebrity voice notwithstanding.

To put it b(l)untly, the CGI-animated Everyone's Hero never explains its stupid idea of a talking baseball and a talking bat. Babe Ruth tries to explain it all away during the absurdly unrealistic Yankee Stadium finale: "This is baseball—anything can happen." The filmmakers presume too much in assuming we'll accept the "magic" "realism" of chatty horsehide orb Screwie (Rob Reiner) and Babe's slugger Darlin' (Whoopi Goldberg). Perhaps we would if the film had any wit or creativity.

Instead, Everyone's Hero focuses on slapstick action, leaving us to ponder if ten-year-old hero Yankee Irving (Jake T. Austin) is actually a schizophrenic doomed to an institutionalized adulthood. In the days before the 1932 World Series, unpopular sandlot rat Yankee hopes to develop his baseball skills. When he finds forgotten foul ball Screwie, he gets some tips, but trouble comes when the evil owner of the Chicago Cubs (an unbilled Robin Williams) orders his seedy third-baseman (William H. Macy) to steal the beloved bat of the Babe (Brian Dennehy).

Yankee's equipment-manager dad (Mandy Patinkin) gets the blame, but Yankee and Screwie are on the case. They get their hands on the bat, but must stay one step ahead of the bad guys to save the day. The journey includes Yankee's befriending of a black girl (Raven-Symoné); her father, conveniently a Negro League player, gives Yankee and friends a lift on the team bus. All along the way to Chicago, Yankee learns to be a better player, in anticipation of that particularly unbelievable ending.

The film's design inhabits an innocuous middle ground between the best CGI and the worst. The characters seems plastic, and the "camera movement" belabored, but then again, action is all Everyone's Hero has going for it. Sadly (in more ways than one), the film is dedicated to co-director Christopher Reeve, who died in the early stages of the film's production, and his late wife Dana Reeve, who retains producer credit. Hero slides into home base courtesy of co-directors Colin Brady and Daniel St. Pierre.

As I watched Everyone's Hero, numerous questions came to minnd. Is it responsible to portray an evil, fictional Chicago Cubs owner circa 1932? Is it responsible to introduce Babe Ruth singing, "Chicago, Chicago, I'm gonna eat ribs?" Does it make any sense to layer a Wyclef Jean track (featuring Kontrast) over the Negro League cheerily bopping around their bus? What, after all, will kids think of the segregated Negro League? Probably nothing—Everyone's Hero seems designed to deaden thought.

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