"Rookie of the Year" contains a fun, entertaining plot that has a great deal of potential; while the rest of the film isn't always particularly ambitious enough to live up to what it could have been, the film is still an enjoyable piece that the whole family can watch. The film revolves around Henry Rowengartner (Thomas Ian Nicholas of "American Pie"), a 12-year-old who isn't exactly the greatest player to step to the plate in little league. One day, when trying to impress a girl, he trips and breaks his arm. Oddly, when healed, the tendons are too tight, which allows Henry to throw pitches that pass 100 MPH.
Timing is certainly better than expected, as Henry finds this fact out when he's at a Chicago Cubs baseball game. Given the fact that the Cubs aren't doing well at all this season, they're desperate enough to hire a kid out of the stands who essentially has little or no previous experience outside of little league.
While the plot is a fun bit of fantasy (who didn't want to be a big-league player when they were little?), the rest of the film doesn't rally around the concept too well, as directed by actor Daniel Stern. The film follows a fairly predictable arc of events, while Stern's handling of the mixture of light comedy and more sappy moments occasionally is rather weak, as the dramatic moments get a bit too heavy and some of the comedic moments come off as either flat or overplayed (or even replayed, in the case of everyone calling Henry by the wrong last name). The film doesn't seem overly concerned with the details of baseball, either.
The performances are mixed, but generally satisfactory. Thomas Ian Nicholas is the best of the bunch, doing a fine job playing the wide-eyed wonder of a kid who's suddenly yanked off the stands into the big league. Fine support comes from from Gary Busey, as well as the other child actors. Dan Hedaya plays the team's sleazy owner, doing the same role that he's done countless other times. Stern is a bit too distractingly wacky in his role, while Amy Morton and Bruce Altman don't make much of an impression as Henry's mother and her new boyfriend. Even the great John Candy doesn't get too much to do in the role of the team's announcer.
Overall, "Rookie of the Year" manages to just stay in fair play, with a decent lead performance and enough enjoyable moments to carry it through.
VIDEO: Fox presents "Rookie of the Year" in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and pan & scan, each edition on its own side of a dual-sided disc. The anamorphic widescreen edition is a perfectly fine presentation, but it lacks the shine of some of the studio's finer efforts. Sharpness and detail are satisfactory, if not terrific - the film can appear a little soft at times, but Jack N. Green (Clint Eastwood's recent directorial efforts, "Twister", etc) captures the beauty of the ballparks nicely.
Aside from the minor softness, there really weren't many other concerns. A few slight print flaws and traces of dirt were visible, but these instances were brief and not distracting. Edge enhancement was absent from all but a few minimal spots, while no pixelation or grain was seen. Colors looked natural and accurate, with no smearing or other concerns. Black level seemed slightly weak, but not terrible. While not exactly a top-notch effort, this is a pleasant presentation from Fox.
SOUND: The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. While not a terrific audio presentation, the film's audio at least does a satisfactory job of covering the bases, providing some decent crowd ambience during the baseball games and slight reinforcement of the score. Other than that, this is certainly a front-heavy "comedy" sound presentation, with everything folding up when the film isn't on the field. Audio quality remained enjoyable, as the film's ambient sounds and dialogue came through clearly, while the music sounded warm and crisp.
MENUS: Nothing but the basics, with simple film-themed images as backgrounds.
EXTRAS: 3 Trailers, 8 TV Spots and a 5 minute promotional featurette.
Final Thoughts: The movie's a bit bland and the material isn't always that great, but "Rookie of the Year" is harmless fun whose concept will likely continue to appeal to kids. Fox's DVD is a fairly basic affair, with respectable audio/video and nothing too much in the way of supplements. Still, fans of the film should consider catching the DVD, as the retail price is low. A light recommendation.