Mr. 3000 (2004)

At the time Mr. 3000 was released, 27 players in real life managed to achieve the feat of hitting 3,000 hits in their MLB careers. The film wants us to believe that there was another man, Stan Ross (Bernie Mac), who also had 3,000 hits. In fact, he got exactly 3,000 before retiring despite his team, the Milwaukee Brewers, being in the middle of a pennant race. This is where our film begins, with Ross getting his hit, retiring, and fast-forwarding seven years, where he is a successful business owner and only a few votes away from being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

However, despite coming only four votes shy the previous year and seeming like a shoe-in this time around, Ross isn’t inducted. He actually received fewer votes this time around, as an error in scorekeeping was discovered and it turns out that he only has 2,997 hits, as one game was recorded twice. Thinking that not reaching the milestone is what’s keeping him out of Cooperstown, he embarks on a comeback, joining the Brewers once again with only a single month in the season. At the age of 47, he needs to get three hits in about 25 games, which for most players would indicate a terrible slump, but for him, a seemingly impossible feat.

Not that he’d let you know that. He seems to be in pretty good shape, and he has the swagger and confidence of a much younger man. He truly believes that he’ll be able to get all three hits — in the same game, he boasts, although that won’t happen — and that he’s so much better than the “little league” team that he’s joining. Obviously, this cocksure attitude doesn’t endear himself to his teammates or the media. It gives him a fatal flaw that will need to be rectified by the end of the film.

You’ll be unsurprised to find out that it all comes down to one final at-bat in the bottom of the ninth in order to secure the record. This is a baseball movie, after all, and there’s nothing more dramatic than the finale of a close game. But the majority of fun in Mr. 3000 is in the time leading up to this conclusion. In fact, I wasn’t even particularly happy with the way the film ended, mostly because it didn’t feel very “real” to me. There isn’t a lot of drama because, well, he could always come back to play another season if he doesn’t get his hit. If he could get in good enough shape to even make it close — and he was only given a month — imagine what he could do if he took the entire off-season to do it.

But whether he gets the hit or not isn’t really the point. The film is more concerned with whether or not he comes to grips with his larger than life personality, reeling it in so that he can become more of a well-rounded individual. He has to become a better teammate, a better friend, and prove to the love interest (Angela Bassett) that he can dedicate his life to a person other than himself. Yeah, it’s all cliché and you’ll probably figure everything out long before Ross does, but it’s told in a compelling way here.

The main reason for this is the charismatic Bernie Mac, taking the starring reigns and doing a very fine job in both the comedic scenes, as well as in the dramatic ones. I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise when a comedic actor takes a more dramatic turn and pulls it off, considering it happens often enough — think Will Ferrell and Jim Carrey in their few dramatic roles — but Mac is more subdued than you might expect and handles himself well. This is more of a drama than a comedy, and Mac makes it work. I believed he was a baseball player.

I did not, however, believe that he was ever playing baseball. The points when we hit the field and watch the players play do not feel realistic. Perhaps I just watch too much baseball, but nothing about the action on the field felt realistic. I didn’t believe in the pitchers, the batters, or the fielders. Not much of the film takes place on the field, but when it did I just had to roll my eyes. This can’t be happening, I thought, and it might have been a good idea for director Charles Stone III to have watched more of the game he was portraying.

He captures the behind-the-scenes moments well, I thought, although I’ve never been in a Major League locker room when all of the players are there. I’ve imagined it, and what I thought up was similar to what was made for Mr. 3000. I quite enjoyed the interactions and banter among the players, as it allowed for some character moments that were fairly enjoyable.

It doesn’t all work. There’s a subplot involving the evil business executives only allowing Ross to play because he draws fans that goes nowhere, a couple of the arcs involving Ross and his teammates get fixed up really fast and don’t have a natural progression — especially the one with his manager — and the love storyline bounces all over the place, with Ross suffering a personality regression midway through that comes out of nowhere.

None of that stops the movie from being enjoyable, but they do stop it from being a required viewing. Mr. 3000 is fun, but it’s no grand slam, perfect game, or other rare feats in baseball that would signify it being spectacular. It is fun, simple as that. It is held back a lot by some of its dramatic events, and either should have given them the necessary time or cut them completely. If anything, it’s another comedian-turned-dramatic-actor movie that will help you see Bernie Mac in a brighter light.

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