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‘Mr. Baseball’ (PG-13)

The Washington Post
October 02, 1992

"Mr. Baseball," the new Tom Selleck comedy about a once-famous American first baseman who is forced to play out his career in Japan, is a weak attempt to promote a feeling of hands-across-the-water congeniality between the two countries. An exercise in cultural contrasts, the movie tries to show us how much we can learn from each other, how spirited, individualistic Americans like Jack Elliot (Selleck) can develop discipline and an appreciation for the glories of group effort, while the Japanese learn to be more relaxed and fun-loving.

And that, strangely enough, is that.

Along the way, director Fred Schepisi sprinkles this example of multinational boosterism with lame gags about the cuddly eccentricity of the Japanese, who are shown to be without humor, flexibility or courage; who are more concerned with saving face than with taking a bold chance to win; and who basically can't do anything without American help.

If the jokes were fresher, Selleck's natural affability might have been enough to put the picture across. But the humor is so condescending and the attitude toward the Japanese so smugly superior that even Selleck's rock-solid appeal is compromised. None of the relationships -- especially Magnum-san's love affair with Hiroko (Aya Takanashi) and his adversarial joustings with her father (Ken Takakura), who also happens to be his manager -- seems to catch fire. Added to that, Schepisi's normally accomplished directorial hand seems shakier than usual. In short, not only does "Mr. Baseball" strike out, the film hits itself in the head with the bat.

Copyright The Washington Post

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