Saturday, March 2, 2013

# 93: Angels in the Outfield (1994)

Angels in the Outfield (1994) Poster

Code-name: LAA

Director: William Dear
Type: Family/Baseball

Roger- Joseph Gordon-Levitt
JP- Milton Davis Jr.
George Knox- Danny Glover
Maggie- Brenda Ficker
Al- Christopher Lloyd
Mel Clark- Tony Danza

Note: Sorry for being a little late on this one. I wanted to wait a couple of days after my "Oscar" entry and got wrapped up in one of my many "novel" writing projects


This is one of my earliest memories of the all-important "movie trailer." 8 times out of 10, the trailer is what sells you on a movie, whether or not you want to see it. The rest is either word of mouth or you follow a certain actor/actress, therefore you want to see their next project.

I first heard about this movie on the VHS of "The Lion King"... so one can imagine I saw it a bunch of times (something bound to happen when it's on VHS so you don't have the option to press a button and magically be taken to the menu).
Stuff like that sticks with you, almost as much as a premise like this where anything can happen. Almost all kids in my generation and beyond have been raised on Disney movies and this follows along that trek where you get a seemingly impossible premise and due to mysterious and magical circumstances, everything works out in the end.

For the record, I do know that this is a remake. I've long accepted it as a fact, but it never ceases to piss me off when I find out a new movie or one of my favorite movies is a remake of something else... i.e. it's not original.
I have not seen the original and have no plans to simply because I love this one.

I'd say it's dear to me because it was part of my childhood and because I get into movies with these kinds of circumstances. Yes, I do believe in angels... as well as the possibility of anything happening. 
As John Lennon said "I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one." 

I rewatched this recently and couldn't believe how many familiar faces there were, not to mention ones I'd gotten more familiar with in recent years. Long before McConaughey established his namesake, Adrien Brody became an Oscar-winning actor and before I saw "Lethal Weapon," all of these people came together for however much they were on screen.

The force behind the story is the strength of belief and embracing the impossible when the odds are against you.
Roger and JP are in a foster care facility under the care of Maggie where they see plenty of their friends come and go while their situation stays the same. From what I can gather, JP was left to the foster system because his mom couldn't provide for him. (It's mentioned in passing that he lived in a car with her before coming there). And Roger's dad left him in the system and kept promising that one day he'd come back for him.

(spoilers ahead)

You know the old cliche where someone is promised something will happen if the impossible becomes possible.
In this case, Roger's dad tells him that they'll be a family again "when the Angels win the pennant." wasn't until YEARS later that I understood the degree of sarcasm and his dad really had no intention of coming back for him.

You also get the other regular cliché that frequents sports movies. A losing team starts winning because, either you get a new coach or, in the case of a lot of family films, a kid is involved.
Ironically, I am not a huge baseball fan.  It may be America's past time, but my go-to is football every time simply because there's more action going on. Baseball, I tend to get so bored that I decided not to watch unless it's the All-Star Game or the postseason.

Then again, I also kinda gave up on the sport when the Phillies (I grew up maybe half an hour away from the stadium in one of the SE PA suburbs) didn't seem to be getting their act together... years later, they eventually did win the World Series... and I missed the game that night. Never stopped kicking myself since then.

This movie and "Rookie of the Year" were two of my favorite movies when I was a kid. 
"Rookie of the Year" was hilarious with so many good one-liners and jokes. Gary Busey was a cool guy and even though "Celebrity Apprentice" paints him as a loose-cannon, I still enjoy watching him.

"Angels" goes a little bit deeper in its themetics, which is part of the reason why it made my list over "Rookie." 

It's a good mix between drama and comedy, but the comedy's always great.

During the first game where Roger and JP are sitting by the dug-out, George Knox keeps sending his PR guy, David, to get food and drinks for the kids... that way he doesn't eavesdrop on their conversations about seeing angels. But he ends up with getting stuff all over him, either because a condiment misses a hot dog, a soda is spilled or he sits in some nachos. A montage later on shows him wearing plastic so all the "debris" doesn't ruin his clothes.

Oh, and also add the fact that the coach/manager has an attitude problem... three clichés... well, four with the fact that they don't get "help" during the title game.
Christopher Lloyd appeared a couple of times in my childhood. I can't remember if it was here first or "Back to the Future," but all the same, I'd always liked him.

Despite the clichés and how predictable the movie is from start to finish, I love every minute of it. You know what's going to happen, but you want to be along for the ride just to see what's going to happen next.

You get the dramatic turn where the protagonist starts to doubt his convictions and things are looking iffy for the winning sports team. People get word of George Knox believing in these angels helping in the games and they want to fire him because they think he's delusional. Thankfully, his team stays behind him at this press conference. The angels don't show up for the final game, but this newfound sense of belief in the team and the fans is a crucial factor. The pitcher, Mel Clark, is on his last legs and because Roger gives the "angel" signal, despite there being no angels, the whole crowd and team reciporates, instilling him with the belief he can.
And win he does.

It's even nicer how they tie everything up in a great big bow at the end. The angels don't just win the pennant, but you get another surprise:
George Knox comes to care for the kids so much that he decides to adopt them.
I didn't see that coming the first time, but it's always one of those great warm & fuzzy moments you can't help but remember forever.

Looking back on it now, nothing has me in awe quite like Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I was too young to catch "3rd rock from the sun" so I'd only just been catching his work in recent years. Just when I thought he was another of those child stars that disappear when they grow up... he's gone from this cute kid whose cheeks you wanna pinch to this good-looking, funny, somewhat nerdy guy and as far as I'd seen (3 roles in the past 3 years, plus a hosting gig on SNL), a heck of a great actor.

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