Mr. 3000 (***)

Posted on September 1st, 2004 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

So, I’m learning that Bernie Mac is an actual actor, in addition to being a comedic performer. We’ve watched The Bernie Mac show sporadically, and I’ve always enjoyed his performances, although I’m hot-and-cold on the show in general. He was engaging as the new Bosley in the second Charlie’s Angels movie, and in Ocean’s Eleven. I like that he seems to have doggedly kept doing his thing and waiting for the world to figure out he was talented instead of trying to remake himself or package an image that follows the trends of the day. I find his humor to be very funny and very real, and obviously derived from real life, which is where all of the truly funny material comes from.

And in Mr. 3000 he shows that he is not just a performer and a funny guy, but also an actual actor and a Hollywood star with the chops to carry a major motion picture as the lead (which he does so easily that I kept forgetting that he’d never done it before). The movie itself flirts with being a great, timeless comedy, but it’s been dumbed down just enough to make it semi-forgettable. This film could have joined films like Big and Groundhog Day in the pantheon of seriously deep comedies, but it doesn’t quite make it out of the park. It’s a long fly ball, though, and the fielder has to jump up and snag it off the wall to keep it from being a round-tripper. That fielder is the script, which has some trite, Hollywood-y parts that tarnish the potential greatness of this film.

Speaking of tarnished greatness, that about sums up Bernie Mac’s character in this film. He plays a former major league baseball player who was a big hitter, who when he gets his 3,000th hit immediately retires from baseball, leaving his club (which is involved in a tight pennant race) in the lurch. You see, he only wanted to get to 3,000 hits because he felt that would insure his eventual induction into the Hall of Fame, even though he was an unrelenting jerk to everyone (teammates, media, coaches, girlfriends, etc) all throughout his professional career.

However, after he’s been retired for 8 years he’s still not in the Hall, but it looks like this will be his year. It looks like he has the votes, finally, to achieve his dream. Unfortunately, on the eve of the final tallying, the record keepers at the Hall discover that a clerical error has accidentally given him three more hits than he actually had, meaning that he’s really just Mr. 2997. That doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, nor does it match the names of all of his post-baseball businesses, which all have “3,000” in their name to capitalize on his fame. Suffice to say that he doesn’t make the Hall (by a landslide).

He decides that what he needs to do is get back into baseball (at age 47) and get those three hits. Suffice it to say that the rest of the film is fairly standard Hollywood stuff, but with a nice ring to it. His love interest is played by Angela Basset, who, in a refreshing change of pace for Hollywood, is his age. Wow, what a concept. I send out positive vibrations to the person who made the decision to cast Ms. Basset over the Halle’s and Jada’s of the world. The soundtrack is filled with good, old, funky R&B, which sets the perfect tone for Bernie Mac’s good, old, funky character. The one false note is the Frank Sinatra tune that serves as the music for the closing credits. It rings completely false and spoils the musical mood of the rest of the film.

The film hangs somewhere between 2.5 and 3 stars, but is closer to 3 so I rounded up. The film could easily be 3 or 3.5 stars with the simple deletion of some of sappier scenes, and an ending that matched the tone of the rest of the film, but what does one expect from Hollywood anymore? The fact that this film is as good as it is means that the creative forces behind it (not the dealmakers) probably had to fight long and hard to keep in the deeper, more serious parts, and so probably had to agree to Hollywood’s idea of what this film should be (and paste in the sappier parts). I have no knowledge that this is true, but the sappy parts are so clunky when compared with the rest of the film that one is led to the conclusion that they were done involuntarily by the creative team.

All that being said, the film is still well worth the price of admission. The baseball scenes are well done, with an authentic feel, and Bernie Mac is just in barely good enough shape to be believable as an older guy making a comeback. Bernie Mac and Angela Basset are an amazingly excellent pairing with real screen chemistry. The fact that they’re both in their late 40s simply makes it all the sweeter, as it is much more interesting to me to see adults falling in love as opposed to teenagers and twenty-somethings flirting with smit. And I also can’t wait to see what Mr. Mac does next.

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