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Yes, I Can. Just Watch Me.
by Jon Schuller

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I enjoy movies that tell stories about individuals who overcome problems, who fight against the odds and, despite all the naysayers discouraging them, eventually triumph and win. They win the respect of family and friends and even more important they get the negative ones to concede defeat and congratulate them. I think we can all relate to stories like this because we all do it every day, in our own ways, without fanfare or fame. The conventional journey of working and raising a family is familiar to all of us and for some, that journey is more difficult nearly impossible than for others. I especially enjoy the true stories, the Horatio Alger type, of real people who climb up and out, the final triumph in their own hands. Many films have come from stories about sports. Most of the Silent Era movies were comedies and later ones, in the '30s and '40s, are more serious as they capture our imaginations and our hearts. Eventually Hollywood starts showing us real people and their stories:
Knute Rockne, All American, 1940. Paper Lion, 1968. Brian's Song, 1971. The Bear, 1984. A Triumph of the Heart: The Ricky Bell Story, 1991. Remember the Titans, 2000. We Are Marshall, 2006. The Express, 2008. And there have been many overseas films
about soccer (Association Football). In March, 2002 a movie premiered about a small-town high school science teacher and baseball coach who realizes his dream of becoming a major league pitcher: The Rookie, starred Dennis Quaid, Rachel Griffiths, Jay Hernandez, Brian Cox and was directed by John Lee Hancock.

Jim Morris, who, when he was younger, had a shot at Major League baseball as a pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers - but hurt his shoulder - is now living with his wife, Lorri (Griffiths) and three young children in Big Lake, Texas and coaching the baseball team. The town has lost enthusiasm for baseball in recent years, making Jim's job of motivating his players even tougher. As he's driving his sleeping son home one night, he stops his truck on the lonely road, in front of an electronic speed limit sign. He quietly gets out and takes his glove and ball with him. He pitches at the sign and it flashes 70. Disappointed, he drives away as the sign starts flickering, then reads 90. One day, as practice ends, the catcher suggests to Jim that he throw a few pitches, just for fun. Jim is embarrassed but tries it anyway as the catcher receives a fastball he's never seen before. The team finds out that Jim's fastball is still there and they tell him
that if they have a winning season and win the district championship, he has to go and get a major league try-out. The Big Lake Owls have a winning season and Jim reluctantly goes to a local tryout session for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Jim hasn't told Lorri, afraid she'll be angry, reminding him (again) of his duties as a husband and father, and, worst of all, that he might injure his shoulder. At the tryouts he surprises everyone especially himself when he consistently pitches at 98 miles per hour. The scouts (and the catcher) tell him to come back for a final shot as Lorri gets 2 phone calls from the scouts telling her what he's done at his age. His relationship with his father, never warm or close, is being tested again as his dad cannot encourage him to realize his dream. Jim has to go it alone. Lorri tells him to go after it as she's been seeing how he's helped his own young son, Hunter (Angus T. Jones) to be more confident.

Jim Morris gets to first play AA ball with the Orlando Rays; then AAA with the Durham Bulls. Despite phone calls home and fears of mounting unpaid bills he doesn't quit, though tempted several times, missing his family, especially his son. His young teammates see an older man wrestling with his emotions and
competing with them. He wins them over as he gets more chances to pitch and win games. One day the manager, Mac (Danny Kamin) calls Jim into his office and tells him his friend, Brooks (Russell Richardson) has been called up to the majors The Tampa Bay Devil Rays - and Jim has to tell him. Then Mac says you can tell him yourself because you're going with him. The two teammates travel to Arlington, Texas as the Rays are playing the Texas Rangers.

Jim is impressive while he warms up as his wife and Hunter, plus the boys from his hometown team watch. The manager calls him up late in the game and tells Jim "I need 3 strikes." Morris throws 3 fastballs and saves the inning. After the game ends he sees his family and they tell him some people want to see him. The whole town of Big Lake is there to congratulate him. He even reconciles with his father. In real life Jim Morris played for 2 seasons between 1999 and 2000.

I love the scene with the electronic speed limit sign. It says to me that we never know what's coming but we can't know for sure until we try. And keep trying. The Rookie is a great film because it's true and the actors portray real people without changing what happened in real life. An old saying goes, "Fall seven times, stand up eight."

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Cinema Savant
Every other Thursday

My views on an eclectic mix of films and personalties, past and present; emotional interpretations; some laughs, some cries.


Other Columns
Other columns by Jon Schuller:

You'll Have to Forgive Him, He's Only an Amateur

BOLO: New York City Detective Missing in Japan

The Unselfish Joy of Laughter

A Film with a Scary, Foreseeable Future

Have You Ever Been Convoluted?

All Columns


Jon Schuller
I am a former New Jersey native, living in Charlotte, N.C. for over 26 years.I am a lifelong movie lover with lots of movie trivia knowledge and soundtracks in my CD collection. I have so many fond memories growing up in darkened movie theaters. I have been married 47 years (as of December 22, 2015) and we both share a passion for film (and each other of course).



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