Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mr. Baseball (1992) [PG-13] ***

Jack Elliot (Tom Selleck) is an aging Yankees baseball star whose larger-than-life ego has outlasted his prowess on the field. And then his manager delivers the worst possible news: Jack has been sold to a Japanese baseball team, the Chunichi Dragons.

Arriving in Tokyo tired and drunk, Jack is met by his assigned interpreter Yoji (Toshi Shioya) who introduces Jack to the team owners. Later, Jack meets Hiroko (Aya Takanashi), the team's marketing rep, who explains that the Dragons can license him to promote any product or service they want, and he cannot refuse. He meets Max (Dennis Haysbert) another gaijin (foreign) baseball player, who was hired five years earlier to help the Dragons win the pennant. And finally, Jack meets Uchiyama (Ken Takakura), the team manager, who knows that Jack is a sloppy player but hopes he still has a good year left in him.

At his first batting practice, Jack finds out he cannot hit the shuuto, a pitch that breaks down and away on left-handed batters, and is known as the great equalizer. Jack shrugs off coaching to fix the hole in his swing, and stubbornly refuses to accept the fact that the game of baseball is played differently in Japan. Although he is revered as Mr. Besoboru, when the other teams' pitchers start using the shuuto, Jack goes into a major league slump which threatens to end both his and Uchiyama's careers. To take Jack's mind off his slump, Hiroko artfully seduces him, and Jack finds himself falling in love with her until he discovers she is Uchiyama's daughter!

This is a delicious romantic comedy that proves that acceptance and cooperation are also strengths, and that we can all learn, grow and change. There's good romantic chemistry between Jack and Hiroko, and the relationship between Jack and Uchiyama is well-written with growth of respect and understanding on the part of both men. If you enjoy baseball-themed comedies, I predict you will enjoy Mr. Baseball.

Labels: baseball, comedy, cross-cultural, romance

Internet Movie Database
RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=42, viewers=56)

The Mysterious Case of Aya Takanashi
At the bottom of the above web post is this comment:
I met Aya Takanashi in 2005 while in Japan on business. She is co-owner of an upscale bar in Hokkaido. She does some voice-over work in Japan and is married to a banker, as of May, 2005. We talked about Mr. Baseball and she said she is often recognized by American tourists.