Disney's live-action titles have really kept to a formula over the years and "Angels in the Outfield" is no different; it's a remake of a 1951 picture. While the performers at least attempt to bring some life to their roles, there are few scenes that aren't predictable and few elements that aren't familiar. The film is one of a few that came out around the same time, including "Little Big League", "Rookie of the Year", "The Scout" and "The Sandlot", the last of which was the only one that got the spirit of baseball right.
"Third Rock From the Sun"'s Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Roger, a young foster child who is abandoned by his father (Dermot Mulroney, looking ridiculous as a biker) as the movie opens. Asking his father when they'll be a family again, he replies, "when the Angels win the pennant." In other words, as the Angels are the worst team in baseball, never. Roger prays one night for the Angels to be a winning team again so his family can come back together.
Somewhere, someone or something was obviously listening, as a team of angels are suddenly assisting the players in making some spectacular plays. Nearly every step forward from this point can be easily foreseen in advance. The performances are not fantastic, but they're at least a bit above average. Danny Glover overacts a bit as the team's manager, but Gordon-Leavitt is convincing as the kid and Brenda Fricker is warm and wise as his foster mother. Technically, the film's fine, with sunny cinematography by Matthew Leonetti and fair direction by William Dear. The only lackluster element is a manipulative and sappy score from Randy Edelman.
VIDEO: Disney continues to be a fairly inconsistent studio lately. Many of their April catalog titles were presented in anamorphic widescreen when they were only listed as widescreen. A couple of the titles were pan & scan, while "Angels in the Outfield" is listed as 1.85:1 widescreen and is not anamorphic. The picture quality is simply passable, as the picture quality is inconsistent: some scenes are crisp, while others are soft and flawed.
Speaking of flaws, there's more than a couple seen during the film. Aside from the softness, some instances of artifacts and mild edge enhancement were spotted. Some shimmering also distracted on a handful of occasions. On a positive note, the print used is fairly clean as, although there are some stretches with a few specks and some dirt, most scenes were free of such blemishes.
Keeping with the merely decent look of the rest of the transfer, colors looked slightly smeary at times and a few steps sort of the kind of vivid appearance they should have. A merely decent presentation, which is dissapointing, given that Matthew Leonetti ("Strange Days")'s cinematography is less static than is usually seen in a kids film like this one.
SOUND: "Angels in the Outfield" is presented by Disney in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's soundtrack provides a bit less envelopment than expected, even for a soundtrack that's now about seven years old. As many of the scenes take place at the baseball field, it'd be nice to have some crowd noise in the surrounds, but the rear speakers simply offer the occasional baseball zipping by or reinforcement of the Edelman score. A couple of scenes provide some slight stadium sounds in the surrounds, but they're so subtle as to be hardly noticable. Audio quality is fine, but not too noteworthy, as there's little dynamic range, but passable clarity.
MENUS: Static menus with no animation.
Final Thoughts: "Angels in the Outfield" is a respectably-acted and harmless, but manipulative and predictable picture. Disney's DVD is a rushed effort, with mediocre audio/video quality and no supplements. Rent it.