"The Rookie" marks a comeback of sorts for actor Dennis Quaid. Quaid, who in the past few years has spent more time making sub-par films and tabloid appearances, finally gets back to displaying his easygoing, nice guy persona onscreen and it pays off with a film that never quite hits a home run, but easily makes it to third base.
"The Rookie" is based upon the true story of Jimmy Morris, a one-time big league hopeful who walked away from it all because of family obligations and semi-contentedly finds himself coaching and teaching in Big Lake, Texas. One day, he makes a deal with his struggling team...make it to the state championships and he will try out for the big leagues.
It's not too hard to guess where the film is going, as his inspired team makes it all the way and Morris finds himself trying out for and making it on the roster of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays as the "oldest rookie."
Quaid's performance here is a winning one, combining family loyalty, quiet determination, and self-deprecation. It's not a tremendous stretch for Quaid, but it's still a performance we haven't seen in quite some time.
Director John Lee Hancock does a nice job here relaxing the cast and building the human dynamics as Morris goes from insecure rookie to overnight success. Hancock, in his directorial debut, hasn't quite grasped the concept of pacing or building the tension, but he manages the action well enough to keep the film constantly entertaining.
In the follow-up to his widely respected script for "Finding Forrester," Mike Rich seems born to write Disney scripts with his ability to create characters that are heartwarming yet possess enough flaws that one can easily identify with them.
The supporting cast is equally as attractive including Rachel Griffiths as Jimmy's wife, Angus Jones as his son (Jones won a Young Artist Award for his performance here), and the likes of Jay Hernandez and Brian Cox in supporting roles. Morris himself shows up in a brief cameo as an umpire.
Sometimes, it feels like Disney seems morally and contractually bound to come out with a "rah rah" heart-wrenching movie of the week, month, or year. "The Rookie" is one of the best of these films, because it combines an authentic humanity, inspirational story, and wonderful spirit to create a film that will warm your heart even as your head is going "I'm being totally manipulated here."
Welcome back to the cinematic big leagues, Dennis Quaid, we've missed you!