It’s easy to understand why the late Christopher Reeve, who never gave up despite his crippling injury, should have been drawn to this story, the moral of which is to “keep on swinging” whatever the odds. But that doesn’t make “Everyone’s Hero” a great family movie. It’s the computer-animated tale of a young Depression-era boy and great Babe Ruth fan (but strike-out shrimp himself) named Yankee Irving, who goes to extraordinary lengths to retrieve and return the Sultan of Swat’s bat, which has been stolen by the evil owner of the Chicago Cubs in order to help his team triumph in the ongoing 1932 World Series. The kid not only succeeds, but saves his dad’s job with the Yankees in the process–and, thanks to the Babe’s avuncular intervention, hits a home run himself in the last and deciding game of the series!
Purists may object that the script toys with the historical record just a bit, but that’s hardly a surprise. Accuracy is hardly the standard by which you’re going to judge a movie like this–or enjoy it. The problem with “Hero” isn’t that it’s ridiculously fictional, it’s that it’s predictable and bland. Most of the movie is a road runner-like chase in which Yankee, once possessed of that bat, is pursued by the bumbling Cubs pitcher Lefty Maginnis who’d taken it in the first place. But in order to balance the lionization of Ruth with a recognition of the accomplishments of the segregated Negro League, one episode introduces black pitcher Lonnie Brewster, who teaches Yankee how to hit, and his spunky daughter. And the need for cute supporting characters–preferably either talking animals or implements–is here filled by the latter, with Ruth’s bat Darlin’ sporting a southern accent and Yankee provided with a wisecracking sidekick, a yammering baseball he names Screwie.
The result is a movie that’s nice enough, but it would be hard to muster any adjective stronger than “pleasant” to describe it. The humor is pretty mild, with (at least) very few of the flatulence gags that proliferate in most kids’ movies nowadays, and though the level of slapstick pratfalls is very high, it’s kept within bounds as far as the violence is concerned. The moral addressed to kids–that you can succeed at anything if you only keep trying–is obvious but still fine. And the voice talent is strong, featuring among others Brian Dennehy as Ruth, Forest Whitaker as Brewster, Rob Reiner as Screwie, Whoopi Goldberg as Darlin’, Mandy Patinkin as Yankee’s dad, and William H. Macy as Lefty, and Jake T. Austin makes a personable Yankee. (The credits don’t list the actor who voices the Cubs nasty owner, but it certainly sounds like Robin Williams in especially manic mode.) As for the animation, it’s perfectly adequate, though hardly extraordinary.
Ultimately the problem with “Everyone’s Hero” is that although it’s about exceptional courage, as a movie it’s average–just another in the steady stream of computer-animated flicks that have been clogging up theatres of late. Can’t we at least have a seventh-inning stretch in the genre, if not call the game entirely on grounds of mediocrity?