Outside of trying to drive Barry Bonds totally insane, why would a 2006 kids' movie choose Babe Ruth, a player whose best year was in 1921, to set up as the paragon of baseball perfection, idol of millions and unlikely ally of a plucky young kid named Yankee Irving? Probably because Ruth played in an era that now seems as simple and heroic as "Everyone's Hero" would like the world to be.
A steroid-and-Steinbrenner-free animated baseball fantasy of highly inspirational aspirations, the film was shepherded by the late Christopher Reeve (the director of record, along with Daniel St. Pierre and Colin Brady) and executive produced by Reeve and his wife, Dana, who died in March of lung cancer. This will no doubt cause many tears to flow before the story of Yankee Irving even gets started. Or perhaps before one gets past this paragraph.
But the most moving aspects of "Everyone's Hero" will probably be found in its credits. The movie is as old-fashioned as one can imagine, despite its 3-D style and the anachronistic mishaps of its script. (Did kids get timeouts in 1932? Could a baseball have been made out of Seabiscuit, who wasn't born until 1933? Did the Depression feature nonfat mochachinos?) And if you live in Chicago, you may well take offense: The Cubs, a meat-locker's worth of knuckle-dragging Neanderthals, are owned by the nefarious Napoleon Cross (Robin Williams). This non-Wrigley assigns Lefty (William H. Macy), a pitcher of disgusting personal habits, to steal the Babe's bat Darlin' (Whoopi Goldberg), so the Cubs can win the World Series. Deciding which is more ridiculous, a talking bat or the Cubs winning the series, will be up to the individual.
Lefty pulls off his crime, which costs Yankee Irving's dad (Mandy Patinkin) his job. Swept up by feelings of incipient New Deal outrage, Yankee sets out to get the bat back, accompanied by a baseball named Screwie, who sounds a lot like Billy Crystal (actually, Rob Reiner). Yankee eventually meets Babe Ruth (Brian Dennehy), who likes the cut of the kid's jib. Or something equally dusty.
Subtle it is not. Well-intentioned it certainly is. No one but the youngest in the family will care very much about it, though. And they may well be filled with wonderment trying to figure out what this big Babe person is all about.
MPAA rating: G
A 20th Century Fox release. Directors Christopher Reeve, Daniel St. Pierre, Colin Brady. Screenplay Robert Kurtz, Jeff Hand, based on a story by Howard Jonas. Producers Ron Tippe, Igor Khait. Editor John Bryant. Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes.
In general release.