Looking to rally moviegoers this weekend is the feature adaptation of Michael Lewis 2003 tome Moneyball, which dramatizes the resurrection of the 2002 underdogs, the Oakland A's, under the then-avant-garde statistical practices of general manager Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt.
Heralded by critics, Moneyball smartly breaks the mold of the typical baseball film, a subgenre that can go a-foul with syrupy, melodramatic moments that pander toward those beernuts at the moviehouse.
Hence, we look at the five most cheesiest moments in baseball cinema -- of which Moneyball isn't entirely guilt free.
5. Friends superstar Matt LeBlanc rooms with a baseball-playin' chimp in Ed.
Let's hope that the talent agents who convinced Matt LeBlanc to star opposite a monkey in the 1996 baseball film Ed are now working at a Dunkin' Donuts. At the height of the Friends mania in 1994, Hollywood suits pondered the types of feature roles the hit show's stars would secure. Courteney Cox took at stab at pop horror with Scream and Jennifer Aniston sensibly embarked on the romcom route with Picture Perfect while David Schwimmer tried the heady indie route with The Pallbearer. LeBlanc, however, thought it best to start his big movie career as a worn-out baseball player who is forced to room with an ace-throwing chimp; a monkey who fumes dutch ovens under the bedcovers and feeds LeBlanc dogfood. Desperate actors in need of work or psycho Z comics like Carrot Top commit career suicide with these roles, not TV superstars. An R-rated hack sex thriller where LeBlanc shows his ass would have done the actor more justice and amplified his street cred.
4. Robert DeNiro Forces Home Runs at Knife-point in 1996's The Fan
Robert DeNiro's Travis Bickle fish-out-of-water schtick gets shutout in this Tony Scott-helmed bomb in which he plays a psycho-fan, so hellbent on encouraging his favorite San Francisco Giants player Bobby Rayburn (Wesley Snipes) out of a career slump, that he kidnaps his son and forces him to hit a homerun. In the Christ-like climax (seen above), poisoned with a melancholic score by Hans Zimmer, De Niro's Gil Renard reveals his motives to Rayburn -- a moving moment that any mental case can fully relate to: "I never showed you my best pitch."
3. There's No Singing in Baseball: That Corny Song From A League of Their Own
In the following clip above, I fully sympathize with the chubby kid. It's embarrassing to listen to a hokey femme pride theme, in this case the "All American League Girls Professional League Baseball Song," while a bunch of dames are undressing in a locker room. Yes, on one level, it's absolutely kinky, but it's not like they're vamping Joe McCoy's "Why Don't You Do Right" in their lingerie. What was worse, director Penny Marshall made the audience suffer through this fastidious ditty more than once.
2. Seriously -- There's No Singing in Baseball and That Goes for Moneyball
Here's a zany idea one studio executive must have had: Let's make all the guys in the audience cry after watching Moneyball. For any man stuck in a mid-life rut, watching Brad Pitt's Beane pull a 180 in his life is an inspirational moment, rivaling a Rocky Balboa comeback. Really, if you're a guy, you'll come out of Moneyball wanting to skydive -- that is, if you leave before this heartfelt end-credits tune by Lenka, "The Show" (it's also sung by Kerris Dorsey, who plays Beane's daughter in the film). Sure, the tune jives with the emotions of Pitt's character, but it's such an ironic cap to a high-brow guy flick -- kinda like putting a jolly Shirley Temple tune at the end of Goodfellas.
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1. "If You Build It, They Will Come" is still crazy-talk 22 years later.
Most machos would consider you a cretin for not loving Field of Dreams, The Godfather of baseball films, with its earnest message about men making good on their past. However, the whole set-up of Kevin Costner's Iowa Farmer Ray Kinsella responding to celestial voices' orders to construct a cornfield baseball diamond remains as wacky as a cult leader Marshall Applewhite spaceship travel reservation. Such new-age, feel-good cinematic themes are dangerous, sending the message to cult religious leaders that "It's OK to listen to the voices in your head."
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