Friday, September 26, 2008

The Scout (1994)

A real feel-good movie

Like the millions of fans who endured the St. Louis Cardinals' disappointing 1998 baseball season to watch the heroics of Mark McGwire, so will Albert Brooks devotees thrill to their comedy god stepping up to the plate in a rare starring role in a film he did not direct and knocking it, if not quite out of the park, then certainly to deep center field.

Brooks, sporting a paunch and a beat-up straw hat, stars as Al Percolo, a disheveled, down-but-not-out New York Yankees scout. His latest sensation, a high school phenom, blows his Yankee stadium debut after he unceremoniously throws up on the mound. Al is not fired, but instead banished to the backwaters of Mexico, where he discovers his own Babe Ruth and ticket back to the majors: local sensation Steve Nebraska, who has a 100 m.p.h. fastball and a titanic swing. As winningly played by Brendan Fraser, he is also an incredible screwball, part Encino Man and part George of the Jungle

The Yankees are willing to pay the outrageous salary of $55 million (those were the days!) for him. But first he must get a clean bill of mental health. That won't be easy for a guy prone to throw dinnerware at the press. In a scene that recalls Brooks's increasingly desperate lobbying to get casino owner Garry Marshall to return the nest egg his wife squandered in Lost in America, Brooks strikes out in his attempts to get Steve's psychiatrist, Dr. H. Aaron (Dianne Wiest), to rubber-stamp the case. As Al becomes a surrogate father to the troubled youth, Dr. Aaron uncovers dark secrets from his past.

While perhaps not in the same league as Bull Durham, The Scout will be a hit with everyone who loves baseball and Brooks (not to mention Brendan). --Donald Liebenson

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