Film Reviews: Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Mr. 3000
Starring Bernie Mac and Angela Bassett. Directed by Charles Stone III. Written by Eric Champnella, Keith Mitchell, and Howard Michael Gould. Rated PG-13.
Big Blue Film Crew

Some mustard to go with that hot dog? Bernie Mac hits solidly as Mr. 3000.


Mr. 3000 begins with Milwaukee Brewers slugger Stan Ross about to collect his 3,000th career hit. He does it in style, shimmying up to the plate, trash-talking the opposing pitcher until he draws a brushback pitch, picking himself up and driving the next pitch over the fence, circling the bases, and then striding into the stands to take the home run ball away from the little kid who caught it. Despite this early display of bad behavior, we know that Stan will turn out all right because he’s in a Hollywood sports comedy and because he’s played by Bernie Mac.

The big, lumbering, pop-eyed standup comic could always electrify an audience on the stage, yet his material was never that cutting-edge — he always stuck to topics like child-rearing and marital sex while leaving his peers Chris Rock and Dave Chapelle to play with fire. This is why Bernie Mac’s metamorphosis from motor-mouthed, profanity-spewing comedian to grouchy but lovable sitcom dad wasn’t too surprising or troublesome. In someone else’s hands, this movie might have touched on why certain African-American sports heroes tick off certain segments of white America’s sports-loving fan base.

Stan’s not an outspoken type like Barry Bonds, though. He’s just a world-class hot dog. And Bernie Mac isn’t Dave Chapelle, but he’s a funny guy who’s always registered strongly in supporting roles, in Ocean’s 11 and Bad Santa. This is his first leading role in a movie, and his genially swaggering, bellowing presence elevates this drab material into something enjoyable.

The movie begins in earnest when Stan, who abruptly retired after reaching the magic plateau of 3,000, discovers with the rest of the baseball world that a statistical error has actually left him three hits short. With too much pride invested in reaching that number, he’s determined to return to the sport at age 47, after nine years away, and squeeze out those last remaining hits. Predictably, he struggles to catch up to major-league fastballs, endures the ribbing of Jay Leno and SportsCenter, reconnects with an ex-girlfriend (Angela Bassett) who’s covering his comeback for ESPN, and finally learns what it means to be a team player.

Bernie Mac’s instincts as a comedian serve the movie well — he wrings well-earned laughs from the comic bits and soft-pedals the more dramatic scenes, like the one where he lays down some truth to the Brewers’ current spoiled superstar (Brian White). The writers come up with a few good jokes — one has Stan posing at a photo op with some kids in front of a banner proclaiming, “Reading Iz Dope.” Mostly, though, the wit flows out of the star and director Charles Stone III, from one of the better sports movies of recent years, Drumline. Stone makes funny use of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite and a hilarious shot of Stan, having been ditched by his girlfriend, looking mournful while wearing a bedsheet that’s hanging very low around his waist. Stone also throws in some telling visuals, like in the opening scene where he focuses on where the batter is looking, at the pitcher’s fingers and the crook of his elbow as he winds up. Mr. 3000 is utterly conventional and formulaic, but the cast and crew don’t treat it that way. That’s a quality any fan can appreciate, on the field or on the screen. l

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