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Mr. 3000

  Mr. 3000
Jeffrey Maier strikes again.

© 2004, Touchstone
All Rights Reserved

Stan (Bernie Mac) was a top ballplayer with the Milwaukee Brewers, who, at the height of his bravado, achieved his 3,000th hit and quit baseball at that very moment. For the next nine years, Stan capitalized on that achievement every which way until it was solemnly revealed that three of those hits were miscounted. Forced back into the game at the age of 47 to recover his legacy, Stan is confronted with younger, better players, a reporter with whom he shared a romantic past (an unusually softer Angela Bassett), and a sports community that wants nothing to do with him. Faced with those odds, Stan attempts to mount the comeback of a lifetime, with nobody rooting for him but himself.

Bernie Mac has lightning wit, original delivery, and a vast sea of material that he draws from. Without a doubt, Mac is one of the funniest comedians alive. So, imagine that crackling intelligence, NC-17-rated smile, and predatory personality shoehorned into a PG-13 baseball comedy from Disney, and there you have the catastrophically misguided "Mr. 3000" (IMDb listing).

Director Charles Stone III, of the offensive and downright idiotic 2002 sleeper hit, "Drumline," comes to "Mr. 3000" without a single clue on how to conquer the deeply labored screenplay. The picture has rare moments of high comedy, which Mac knocks out of the park with the thirst of a man who has just crossed the Gobi and found the Pacific Ocean. "3000" is also a sensitive drama on the realities of aging, love affairs gone south, and the intricate stitching of teamwork. These two speeds of comedy and drama can conceivably peacefully coexist in a baseball film; just look at the brilliant "Bull Durham" or Penny Marshall's sentimental grand slam, "A League of Their Own." However, Stone doesn't have enough experience to balance the opposing moods. Almost every scene drops dead as soon as it arrives, and Mac is the only thing in the frame that keeps the energy of the picture up.

"3000" is explicitly about teamwork, but Stone only introduces the audience to 1/3 of the team. The film purports Stan to be a stellar ballplayer, but we only see him fielding maybe twice in the entire film. Stone peppers the film with hackneyed music cues (yes, "Let's Get It On" and "I Got You (I Feel Good)" are actually used again, if you can believe it), and a weirdly claustrophobic view of the actual game of baseball, which involves extensive close-up photography and the absence of outfielders. Stone isn't putting a personal stamp on anything in the film, instead content to play zombie under Disney's strict rules for a "heartwarming," cookie-cutter, sports dramedy. Everything in the film has the stink of fatigue.

I can't imagine what "3000" would've been like without Bernie Mac. Always a force of nature with a stare that could frighten the dinosaurs, Mac tries to leap up into the world of leading men with this film, ignoring these, his greatest years for comedy. Currently at the top of his comedic game, Mac should be banging out films right now that make audiences laugh so hard they renounce their religion. Not manipulative claptrap that is so ground into an audience-pleasing mush, it has no features or feeling. And it's not that Mac can't play drama; if the dreadful (and endless) scenes of introspection in "3000" prove anything, it's that Mac is capable of playing it all. The real question is, should he?

"Mr. 3000" ends with a terrific joke involving Viagra that coldly reminds us just what type of film this could've been had Stone allowed Mac to run with it. This is a picture built with an exquisite architecture capable of unlimited comic potential, but its director and its studio don't understand what it takes to reach such heights.

Filmfodder Grade: D



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