My overall score: 5/10
Brody performance score: 5/10
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Milton Davis Jr., Danny Glover, Brenda Fricker, Tony Danza, Christopher Lloyd, Dermot Mulroney, Taylor Negron, Adrien Brody, Matthew McConaughey… it’s a big cast.
Writers of the original (1951): Dorothy Kingsley, George Wells, Richard Conlin
This version: Dorothy Kingsley, George Wells, Holly Goldberg Sloan
Director: William Dear
Genre(s): Comedy, Family, Fantasy
Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes
Released: July, 1994
This is one of those films you don’t really get a lot out of as an adult watching alone, because it’s made for families with children. I find I appreciate it more when my daughter is around, if only because the great majority of Brody’s films can’t be watched while little ones are within earshot. 😉
It is a charming and sweet family film, albeit a bit saccharin at times. The motivation for the main character (Roger Bomman, played by a young and already emotionally present Joseph-Gordon Levitt) is quite touching. His absentee father (played by Dermot Mulroney) tells him they’ll be a family again “when the Angels win the pennant” (akin to “when Hell freezes over”). Roger, being a child, takes this quite literally and prays for this feat to take place. In response to Roger’s prayers, actual angels arrive to help the Anaheim Angels out on the field.
My only real complaints are moments of the over-the-top variety: such as drastic and sudden changes in characters’ personalities, and the eyeroll-worthy (and actually a bit creepy) unlikely happy ending. And a few cheesy jokes that may play well to children, but make adults sigh and shake our heads. Oh! And a “smoking is bad” message that casts an absolutely unneeded sad shadow over what would otherwise be one of the film’s happiest scenes. I get what they were trying to do, but it was such a downer and so jarring. Not cool.
While I’m talking about over-the-top, I have a small nitpick about Adrien’s performance in this movie. There’s a scene where his character, Danny Hemmerling, is at bat. Danny is chewing something (gum, tobacco… whatever else baseball players typically chew), but he so clearly isn’t chewing anything. Adrien is playing to the back of the room, like, “hey, look, I’m chewing!” You know, like in roughly 99% of films and TV, when people are pretending to drink from clearly empty cups? Kind of like that. That phenomenon bugs the heck out of me, too. What’s wrong with… drinking?
Wow. Tangent, much? Anyway…
Generally, I think Adrien did well in this role. He clearly worked at looking like a baseball player. He’s our method actor, after all. He was Danny Hemmerling, not Adrien Brody. He is responsible for some of the laughs, here, which is great to see (such as the National Anthem scene). I treasure his more lighthearted moments, and I think he does, too.
So, in summary, Angels in the Outfield is a cute movie, and much of the schmaltz can be forgiven when you consider the target audience. Kids like over-the-top, because it grabs their attention and makes them laugh. I get that. It’s not Citizen Kane, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s just family fun. And it succeeds in being fun.