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'Mr. 3000': No Diamond

By Sara Gebhardt
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 17, 2004; Page WE45

THE BEST LINE of "Mr. 3000" comes near the end, when Bernie Mac briefly turns into a narrator and says, "Corny enough for you?"

It is a moment of ironic self-reflection for Mac (or perhaps the selfish egotist he plays), who never inspires you to root for him, which is a problem in a sports film.


Bernie Mac, flexing muscles if not acting chops as "Mr. 3000," a has-been baseball player who needs to return to the game to restore his claim to fame. (Richard Cartwright -- Touchstone Pictures)

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Unfortunately, you cannot chalk up Mac's status quo performance to the fact that he is being so funny that you can't take him seriously. His comedy does shine through, but not as prominently as his moviegoing admirers might hope.

As Stan Ross, a former baseball superstar who quit the game as soon as he tallied 3,000 hits (thus meeting the informal eligibility requirements for the Baseball Hall of Fame), Mac tries hard to come off as a compelling dramatic actor, but ends up reinforcing his place in the acting world as a sitcom star.

Maybe that's because the script is much like a nine-inning sitcom that uses an obvious formula to tell a familiar story while garnering cheap laughs. Unlike his eponymous family-oriented television show, however, Mac uses swear words to deliver most of his funny lines.

The premise of the movie, which is Mac's first lead role in a major motion picture, is that nine years after Stan abruptly left the sport, his hopes of legendary status are dashed when someone discovers that he was actually three hits short of 3,000 when he retired. In the years since, he has continued to profit off of self-promotion by operating a strip mall whose stores all contain the number 3,000.

Driven by his ego and desperate in his hubris-inspired desire to maintain his place in baseball history, the over-the-hill, out-of-shape Stan stages a comeback. It's a difficult climb for a guy whose new teammates call him Grandpa and who has few supporters in his latest quest.

Meanwhile, subplots included for humorous value that do not directly involve Stan, such as one in which an annoying pair of his young teammates try to one-up each other over and over again in the dugout, fall flat.

Even though it is the members of the media who have the power to induct Stan into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Stan never bothered to make friends with reporters earlier in his career. He assumed that his statistics would speak for themselves. Now that they don't measure up, journalists are eagerly scrutinizing Stan's every failure. Many scenes revolve around fake "Sports Center" clips, news conferences and talk shows in which reporters tear Stan and his swollen pride apart.

But because there has to be a love interest to transform Stan from a jerk to a likable guy, Stan's got one on-again, off-again fan in the press, Mo Simmons (Angela Bassett). Their good chemistry does help make Stan's character growth a little more believable, but not enough to make you forget that it is taking a long time to put a nice, neat end on the story.

MR. 3000 (PG-13, 104 minutes) -- Contains profanity and sexual situations. Area theaters.


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