leave a comment --Ethan Alter
An anemic adventure that epitomizes generic feature animation, this film was probably doomed when original director Christopher Reeve passed away before the start of production. 1932, New York: Led by Babe Ruth, the Yankees are on the verge of snatching their umpteenth World Series from the Chicago Cubs, news that brightens the heart of every New Yorker, particularly wide-eyed youngster "Yankee" Irving (voiced by Jake T. Austin), who dreams of swatting home runs like his idol. Unfortunately, in real life he can barely hit the ball. After another humiliating afternoon at the sandlot, he spots a lost baseball and takes it home to the small apartment he shares with his kind but distracted parents. No sooner has Yankee shut the door to his room than the ball magically springs to life. Though momentarily surprised, Yankee quickly adjusts to the reality of a talking baseball (even one that speaks in Rob Reiner's familiar nasal bray) and names his new friend Screwie. Meanwhile, devious Cubs owner Mr. Robinson (Robert Wagner) has devised a surefire way to undermine the Sultan of Swat: He sends his pitcher/partner in crime, Lefty (William H. Macy), to steal the Babe's beloved bat, Darlin'. Not only does the plan work, but Lefty deflects suspicion onto Yankee's father, stadium groundskeeper Stanley (Mandy Patinkin), who's promptly fired. Hoping to get his dad's job back and ensure his favorite team's victory, Yankee steals Darlin' back and sets out to return her to her rightful owner. Along the way, he and reluctant traveling companion Screwie encounter a trio of smiling hobos, a young African-American girl (Raven-Symone) whose father is a Negro League star and, finally, the Babe himself (Brian Dennehy). Oh, and they learn that Darlin' also has a voice, one that sounds an awful lot like Whoopi Goldberg. The movie's heart is in the right place, but it's something of an endurance test, particularly when the obnoxious Screwie is on screen. While Reeve, widely hailed as a real-life hero, must have seen something in this story he wanted to share, directors Colin Brady and Daniel St. Pierre, who completed the film, evince no particular passion for the material. They stick closely to the kid-movie playbook (heavy on dumb humor, mawkish moments and endless musical montages), and the unremarkable computer animation only adds to the film's general blandness. Parents, hold out for a better hero.