Making the Grades
Jack, an aging baseball player (Tom Selleck), can't cut it in the majors anymore. His agent is desperately seeking a new home for his client. Even Canada won't take him. "Not Canada," Selleck quips, "I can't afford to pay those taxes!" (Perhaps they are still a little bitter about the Jays in the U.S.)
Jack finally finds a home in Japan, playing for the Dragons. The problems for him are just starting, as he discovers the Japanese have a very different attitude about baseball and respect.
With the amount of nudity in this film, it became obvious that the aim of this production was to do everything possible with nudity and language, and still manage a PG-13 rating. The back of the box on this one describes the film as "heartwarming," and since it is a story about baseball and respect for culture, you might assume it has family appeal. Caution should be exercised with this assumption.
Another problem with this movie is the perceived superiority of our culture over the foreigners. Shortly after arriving in Japan, Selleck addresses the Japanese press. In the film, none of the press members understand English, so Selleck makes wisecracks, while the interpreter supplies polite answers to their questions. It seems unrealistic that Japanese press members would not understand English. It would seem far more logical to pull that performance off in North America, with the tables turned.
In the end, the writers do try to supply a sense of give and take. Both Selleck and his adversary, Ken Takakura seem to learn from each other. Selleck learns respect and cooperation, while he teaches manager Takakura and the rest of the team how to spit.
On the good side (and there is one), this film has a wonderful musical score and sensational sound and visual moments. The stadium scenes are exceptionally exciting, and if you have a Dolby Surround system to listen to this on, you will be even more impressed. Director of photography Ian Baker has worked with Schepisi on past projects, and in this one, his cinematography skills really shine. Too bad the story is lost amongst so much needless elements.