January 21, 2013

Mr. 3000 (2004)
Starring Bernie Mac and Angela Bassett

Comments:    Unfortunately, I was never really all that familiar with Bernie Mac.  When he passed away (of pneumonia) in 2008, all I really knew about the guy was that he had been a stand up comedian, at one point he had had a TV show, and that he had starred with Billy Bob Thornton in the movie Bad Santa.  But I never really realized what a big deal he was.  In fact the only thing I had ever seen Bernie Mac in prior to his death was Bad Santa.  And even though that is one of the twenty funniest movies I have ever seen, he was really only a minor character in the movie so I never really paid all that much attention to him.

However, then I stumbled upon the movie that was supposed to have made Bernie Mac a big movie star.  After he died, I stumbled onto Mr. 3000.  I didn't know much about it, I just knew it was supposed to be a silly little baseball comedy.  And I knew that the critics had neither liked it nor hated it.  It was one of those movies that came out for a while, it kind of hung around for a couple of weeks, and then it just sort of disappeared into oblivion.  And was what noteworthy was that while it was out, I don't think I had ever heard a single person say a single word about it.

Mr. 3000 was one of those forgettable little B-level comedies that really hadn't made much of an impact on anyone.

Well anyone who knows me in real life will tell you I am a huge baseball fan.  I love baseball, and I love baseball movies.  In fact, I don't think I have ever actually seen a bad baseball movie.  Even the worst baseball movie in the world I will generally find pretty entertaining.  Although obviously that is kind of hard to say with a straight face when you are talking about the Bad News Bears go to Japan.

Anyhoo, since I love baseball movies so much, one day I was tempted to check out Mr. 3000.  It couldn't hurt, right?  I mean, no one ever said that Mr. 3000 was a BAD movie.  Its reputation was simply that it was a forgettable movie.  Besides, Bernie Mac had just died, and I didn't know all that much about him.  So I figured that in the guy's memory the very least I could do was check out the movie that was supposed to have made him a big movie star.

Well I rented Mr. 3000 one day in 2008, and right off the bat I fell in love with it.  And I couldn't believe that a movie like this could have been buried so completely, and that it could have been so haphazardly lumped in with all the other lame forgettable comedies.  Because Mr. 3000 is not forgettable.  And it is not lame.  In fact for a while now I have said that I would probably put it in my top ten baseball movies of all time.

It's not number one, of course.  And I doubt I would ever put it in my top five.  But still, the top ten baseball movies is still a pretty good place to be, especially for a person who has seen as many baseball movies as I have.  And I know this is an entirely different essay for an entirely different day, but I would probably even rank Mr. 3000 higher than Bull Durham.  Shh, don't tell.

Stan Ross

Mr. 3000 is the story of Stan Ross (Bernie Mac, who is totally perfect for the role).  

Stan Ross is what you would call a primadonna.  He is one of the greatest hitters in baseball history (from what I can piece together from the movie, he is basically the Tony Gwynn of his era - a lefty with a high average and not a lot of power).  But the problem is that he is a dick.  None of his teammates can stand him.  None of his coaches can stand him.  Nobody in the media can stand him.  He is absolutely one of the most dislikable assholes in the history of baseball.

The reason Stan Ross is such a huge douchebag is because of his ego.  He basically thinks that he is God's gift to baseball.  And that everyone else involved in the game should bow down before him because he so amazing.  Oh, and also, because he has an ego the size of Mount Rushmore.

Yes, if you watch the movie for about five minutes, you can guess that he was probably modeled after Barry Bonds.

A classic Stan Ross moment.  A little kid catches his 3,000th hit ball and Stan runs into the stands and threatens to beat the kid up if he won't give him back the ball.

Well Stan Ross gets his 3,000th hit one night in Milwaukee (which is really the only career milestone he has ever cared about), and right then and there, he decides to retire from baseball.  Right then and there, in the middle of a pennant race, he quits on his team and he tells them that they can all kiss his big old black ass.  Because now that he has 3,000 hits he doesn't care about anyone else anymore.  He has what he wanted, and now he is retiring from baseball.

Stan Ross in retirement

After Stan retires from baseball, he immediately starts a franchise of businesses called "The Mr. 3000" line.  He opens a bar called the Mr. 3000 Bar.  He opens his own restaurant.  He opens his own clothing store.  Then he trademarks the name.  From here on, anywhere he goes he requires that people call him Mr. 3000.

Even though he is considered a baseball legend now, even though he has achieved the required number of 3,000 hits, Stan isn't elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.  And this pisses him off.   Stan is furious that the sportswriters he treated like shit all those years have now come back to get their revenge against him.  So Stan mounts an assault.  He pressures the team to put together a Stan Ross Appreciation Day.  He wants his old teammates to come out and speak in front of a crowd and tell everyone how Stan belongs in the Hall of Fame.

So Stan Ross Appreciation Day happens, and no one shows up.  

Not a single one of his old teammates will come out and speak on his behalf.  

Even in retirement, they all think he is an ass.

Stan telling everyone how amazing he is on Stan Ross Appreciation Day

Well this is where the movie starts to get fun.

One day, the people who do the stats in Cooperstown are cross checking the numbers, and they realize that there was a clerical error in one of Stan Ross's games.  They realize that a game where he got three hits was actually added to his career total twice.  So he didn't end his career with 3,000 hits, he actually ended his career with 2,997 hits.

And for a guy who is now walking around referring to himself as "Mr. 3000", this is kind of a big deal.

Well when Ross hears about the clerical error, he flips out.  He loses his shit.  And he immediately decides that he is going to unretire.  After all, he might be 47 years old now, he might be a good ten years past his prime.  But age shouldn't matter that much.  Not when you are Stan God Damn Ross.  He figures, how hard could it be to unretire and go back to baseball and get those last three hits?

Stan getting in shape to get back in the game.  This won't be that hard.  He figures it will take four or five games, tops.

I don't want to talk too much about the rest of the movie, because this is one of those movies that is more fun to watch if you don't know all that much going into it.   But let's just say that Stan is NOT prepared for how much baseball has changed in the ten years he was gone.  And the story does NOT go in the exact direction you think it is going to go.  And that this really isn't all that much of a comedy.  It is really more of a dramatic movie.

Stan is completely unprepared for how players are expected to train and be in shape now

One of the things that I love about Mr. 3000 (and what I expect a lot of critics didn't like about it) is that like I said before, it really isn't all that much of a comedy.  I mean, you THINK it is going to be a comedy, because it stars Bernie Mac.  And because it was billed as a comedy.  But it really isn't.  In fact once Ross gets back into the game I can only think of maybe one or two mildly funny scenes.   This certainly isn't the type of comedy that you will go home and you will be telling all your friends about.

But then again it isn't TRYING to be that.

No, what Mr. 3000 is is a pretty gripping baseball drama.  And it is pretty deep too.  I mean, you wouldn't expect it to be deep, not with an actor like Bernie Mac in the lead role, and certainly not with a character like Stan Ross as your hero.  But I'll be damned if it doesn't flip a switch from comedy to drama about halfway through the movie and it actually kind of works.  And I was amazed that there wasn't just one chill scene* towards the end of the movie, there were actually about three or four.

* chill scene = As coined by ESPN's Bill Simmons, a scene in a sports movie that is so effective that it will actually give you chills.  Mr. 3000 has a few of them.

Most of the best scenes in Mr. 3000 come when Ross meets the new hotshot selfish young asshole on the team, a primadonna named T-Rex Pennebaker

As I said earlier in my review, Mr. 3000 isn't the best baseball movie in the world, and I would certainly never rank it anywhere near The Natural or Major League.  But it is a LOT better than you would expect it to be.  And it is a lot deeper too.  And I have no problem at all putting it in my top ten baseball movies of all time.

It isn't really a comedy, so don't go into it expecting it to be a comedy.  People who go into it expecting to laugh because Bernie Mac is in it will probably be very disappointed.

However, if you go into it expecting to see a solid baseball movie, with a lot of baseball realism, starring a guy who was a much better dramatic actor than anyone ever gave him credit for, well Mr. 3000 would be a solid choice for you to check out.  When I sat down and I watched it for the first time, I was amazed at how good Bernie Mac was in it.  I mean, he took one of the most unlikable douchebag characters in sports movie history, and he actually sort of made him likable.  Very few actors could have done what Bernie Mac did in this movie.  It is one of those rare movie roles that I don't think anyone else in Hollywood would have been able to pull off.

This is the movie that was supposed to have made Bernie Mac a big movie star.  And unfortunately for him (and I guess unfortunately for everyone), it never really happened.

If you are looking for a good baseball movie that you have probably never seen before, take a chance on Mr. 3000.  Although again, don't expect a comedy.  You aren't going to laugh all that much.  However you will appreciate the message that the movie is trying to pull off.  And you will appreciate the chill scenes.

And again, you will appreciate Bernie Mac.  I really wish I had paid more attention to him before he died.   He was a really good actor.

Hopefully one day people will appreciate this movie.  And Bernie Mac will one day get the respect he deserved.

R.I.P. Bernie

* My favorite IMDB user reviews about Mr. 3000

MUCH better than you might think it would be - 7 May 2012
At the risk of being obvious by starting with a baseball metaphor, this movie blew me out of the park - which I wasn't expecting. When I came here to review it, I was almost equally surprised by how low the overall rating given by reviewers is.

I ordered this movie because I saw that it dealt with an older man trying to go back and do physically demanding things he had been able to do years before. Being 60 myself, that's an issue I can relate to, and I wanted to see how it was handled. I knew who Bernie Mac was, of course, but I'd never seen any of his other movies, or his TV shows. I figured the situation would be played for broad laughs - the old geezer puffing and panting because he's out of shape - as is evidently the case for a lot of the comedies I don't see that are aimed at the 15-25 market. In other words, I expected some easy laughs, but nothing more.

I was VERY wrong. This movie comes close to batting 1000 for several reasons.

First, this script is no throw-away piece of easy comedy writing. There is no simple, clichéd arch: Stan is obnoxious, Stan is made to look foolish, Stan learns his lesson and becomes a wonderful human being. Yes, Stan starts to learn what he looked like to others, not with some TV sitcom big group hug, but by seeing the young star of the Brewers act too much as he did in his prime. And yes he gets humiliated, painfully, over and over again, especially by the particularly cruel sports commentators on TV. But if he starts to change because of all this, he backtracks and goes back to being the obnoxious old Stan on more than one occasion. He does finally learn humility, but it doesn't come in one easy moment. There is actually real character development here.

While I found his relationship with the woman sports writer to be less interesting, it, too, was not written with broad strokes. Both of the characters have issues they need to resolve, and they find it can't be done quickly. The dialogue between them, once they started seeing each other, I found to ring remarkably true, and to be very intelligently adult. These are not two teenagers "letting it all hang out"; these are two intelligent adults who have things to figure out, and who know how to express different aspects of themselves with words, often carefully chosen. In general, the dialogue in this movie is written for adults, which may explain, in part, why this movie left some viewers - younger viewers - uninterested.

For that matter, I suspect the ideal audience for this movie is older men, who have started to deal with what it feels like when, in one way or another, they can no longer do what their bodies once did. That's not the ideal demographic for a modern movie.

But the script is not all serious character development. There are some truly remarkable comedy moments as well, such as when Stan gets the obnoxious runner on base out to save the young pitcher's career by secretly bringing the ball back from the mound. Or, of course, the last shot, when Stan does the Viagra commercial his earlier, obnoxious self had sworn he would never do.

The other thing that makes this movie so good - and it is very good - is the acting, first and foremost Bernie Mac's. As I said, I've never seen him in a movie before, so I don't know what he's "usually" like. But here he acts like a pro. He understands that great movie acting is done often with slight modifications of the face, and he is very good at that. You can see hurt and pain in his face and eyes in a way that makes them far more powerful than any ranting and screaming would have been. Again, perhaps you have to be older to appreciate the hurt he feels, but he does a first-rate job of conveying it. He never appears to be acting. Because, in fact, I am not used to seeing him on the screen, I could - and often did - simply believe I was watching a 47-year old former baseball player trying to do what he had once been able to do, and hurting terribly when he could not.

I indicated the spoiler alert above, but still, WARNING: HERE COMES A SPOILER. I spent much of the movie wondering how it would end. Would it be the cliché: at the last moment, he gets the hit he needs and all is well? No, the script was much better than that - and showed a real knowledge of baseball. He sacrifices his chance at a 3000th hit with a sacrifice bunt, so that the younger player can make it to home and win the game for the Brewers - a win that will not clinch the pennant, far from it, but will earn them a respectable 3rd place, better than the 5th for which they had seemed destined. And when he does that, the team does not all crowd around him, as they would in a clichéd movie. No, they crowd around the player who made it across the plate, as you would expect in real life. Only after that do they notice poor Stan.

This is a movie made for real grownups, and that's a high compliment. The movie teaches an important lesson, but it never preaches and it very often made me laugh. First and foremost, however, it thoroughly impressed me with the quality of the writing and then the quality of the acting that that writing allowed.

Even if you have no interest in baseball, you'll enjoy this movie. It's something everyone involved can be very proud of.

Bernie Mac hits a triple - 20 March 2007
I love movies and I love watching sports. Not surprisingly, I really enjoy sports movies. Good ones. This is a very good one.

Bernie Mac, as the ragingly ego maniacal baseball star Stan Ross, accomplishes the near impossible. He makes us despise his character, then pity him, and finally adore him. He is completely comfortable in the role, and commands the screen with almost shocking ease.

The movie doesn't go for a home run, and therein lies much of its strength. This isn't "The Natural." The director and writer are content to tell a straightforward but very entertaining story with a good message for athletes of all ages. "Mr. 3000" is funny and ultimately quite touching, and the ending is both surprising and fitting.

My kids enjoyed the movie as much as I did. So count this as three "thumbs up" for a Hollywood movie with a little bit of heart.

Imagine my shock - 13 September 2005
I might be unpopular for this review but I just have to let it all out...MR. 3000 ROCKS!! Hey you think you're surprised...imagine my shock. I am not a Bernie Mac fan although I've never seen him in much. I really only watched Mr. 3000 because I compulsively watch all movies and I was met with such a great movie. It's not the kind of film to bring home all kinds of critical acclaim, it's just a feel good, heart felt movie about Baseball. I expected annoying, foolish humor and instead it was more subtle, dramatic even and Bernie Mac is FANTASTIC!! I am a Bernie Mac convert!!!

Mac plays infamous baseball hall of famer wanna-be Stan Ross. He is so believable as first of all the legend himself as the young, newly retired player and then later as the more mature, aging star. Stan Ross is egotistical, and a huge presence in baseball. He's the guy everyone loves to hate. I can't say enough about Mac's performance as this guy. He pulls off egotistical and a strong player and you root for him in the end. Angela Bassett as Mac's love interest is a perfect match which is very unusual for films. You know usually the aging star has a love interest half his age but Bassett is also an aging sports reporter and they fit each other perfectly. The rest of the team is played by some great character actors and they all just are so believable as Major league ball players. The laughs are really slapstick or outright but it's still a comedy at heart but it's really the story of an aging ball player who grows up on the field years after his retirement. It was just plain enjoyable to me. Simple, well directed, and well written and best of all well acted. It has a nice message to it and when Mac's character hits that 2999 hit, I admit I felt chills for him. This is a classic in my books, say what you will. I recommend this one to anyone looking for a good little movie for a Saturday night. It doesn't disappoint and if you love baseball, it's all about the game!!

History Will Be Kinder Than The Critics; The Bratwurst Steals The Show - 24 August 2005
This is an excellent movie because it delivers on the promise of its marketing: you get the story of a 47 year-old former hitting star of the Milwaukee Brewers (Bernie Mac as Stan Ross), who retired nine years earlier with exactly 3,000 hits, believing that to be his ticket to the hall of fame, and milking the "Mr. 3000" persona for all it's worth commercially. It is very common in real life for former athletes to become car dealers and high-end stockbrokers, selling expensive things to rich people who want a little nostalgia as an extra, and if you check the end of "Miracle" you'll find many former members of the 1980 gold medal squad working in finance or banking.

The last-place Brewers are desperate for attendance (at least their owner, played by Chris Noth, is), and they lure Stan back to the ballpark to retire his number. While compiling a list of each of his 3,000 hits, it is learned that three of the hits were counted twice and he only has 2,997 hits, thus cancelling his ticket to Cooperstown. Stan will have none of this, and returns to the Brewers, whose owner figures he'll be a welcome distraction from the standings. Ross faces an uphill battle from the team he publicly derided prior to his return, even finding himself on the receiving end of a seemingly endless tirade of trash talk from a mascot dressed as a BRATWURST. The movie even paid an homage to the "sausage races" that occur in Milwaukee during the seventh inning stretch (a race between four mascots in various sausage uniforms).

The usual suspects (ESPN, etc.) make cameos, and Stan's on-again, off-again love interest (an ESPN reporter played by Angela Bassett) enjoys his company but finds him unsuitable for commitment to anything but his mirror. Stan has a full life and several close friends who accept his narcissism as part of the package that drew the fans to the ballpark all those years. The fans seem willing to forgive Stan everything because he came through for the team all those years, and even empathize with his plight to recapture his primary glory in life, taken from him through a mathematical error not even his. Paul Sorvino manages his best Earl Weaver impersonation as manager Gus Panas, but I was never a fan of that shtick when Earl did it.

The film has no real bad guy (other than Stan's ego), but they add an "It's A Wonderful Life" element to the film in the form of T. Rex Pennebaker (sp?), the brash young slugger you build championship teams around. T. Rex is a lot like Stan used to be, thus giving Stan pause, for like Stan used to, T. Rex walks the walk as he talks the talk. To his credit, T. Rex gives his all even for a last-place team, even if it's only to boost his stats.

Stan, who left the Brewers in a pennant race nine years ago, now tries to be a team player as he pursues the elusive three hits. He tries to show he has matured and loves the game, and assumes a mentoring role for a talented yet very undisciplined, young team, but the "old Stan" does not go away quietly, and in a way that's good, because for as egotistical as Stan is made out to be, it is obvious that he loves people, the spotlight, and genuinely wants to be liked. He just assumes that everyone is out for themselves the way he is out for himself.

If you tried to write the ending to this film, it wouldn't be surprising if you were not too far off from how they wrote this one. The movie doesn't even try to be unpredictable, and this is another strength, because there's really only one or two ways a movie like this can end.

Bernie Mac drives one home - 11 October 2004
Bernie Mac is what makes you watch Charles Stone III's "Mr. 3000". Mac is totally funny and has a great screen presence. No doubt this is a star vehicle for Mac, who really benefits from a surprising screenplay by Eric Champnella, Keith Mitchell, and Howard Gould. Their "Mr. 3000" is funny, edgy, and appropriately sentimental. Bernie Mac plays Stan Ross, a great Major League hitter, and also a major league arrogant jerk. Upon reaching his 3000th hit and securing his place in the Hall of Fame, Stan retires leaving his team in a lurch just before the playoffs. Stan parlays his "Mr. 3000" title into a successful business. However, 9 years later when Stan is on the verge of possible sports immortality with an induction into the Hall of Fame, a statistical error reveals that Stan Ross, "Mr. 3000", is really Stan Ross "Mr. 2997". Stan is shy 3 hits-- pretty much killing any chance of a trip to Cooperstown. So at nearly 50 years old, Stan decides to make a comeback. Seeing the potential of increased ticket sales by his return, his old team welcomes him back. Well, at least the owners do. How difficult would it be to get 3 more hits? Well, that is some of the movie.

Bernie Mac has this charm about him that even when playing a world class arrogant jerk, he is still likable. That is amazing. However, in the evolution of the story by Champnella, Mitchell, and Gould, Stan's (Mac's) introspection of the man he was in his youth is effective and at times poignant. Mac as Stan is smart and gradually sees the impact of selfishness on his teammates in the past and present, and with his old flame Mo (a wonderful and gorgeous Angela Bassett). He sees much of his young self in superstar hitter T-Rex (a commanding Brian J. White). Consequently Stan gives T-Rex a wake up call. T-Rex could end up being a lone jerk like Stan, or he could really make a profound difference by being a leader, and inspire his teammates. This is one of the great touches of the "Mr. 3000". Another great touch is Michael Rispoli as Stan's one loyal friend, Boca, who finally points out to Stan that he loves him, because he can always count on Stan to do what is right for Stan, regardless of anyone else. At the heart of the movie is the amazing Angela Bassett as Mo. She knows that Stan is a jerk and she still loves him. She also is sad and angry that Stan doesn't just grow up, knock it off, and be the great man that he deserves to be.

The end really took me by surprise-- I did not expect it. Without giving anything away, everything works out sometimes in the most unsuspecting ways.

Bernie Mac is wonderful here. "Mr. 3000" is that cool fantasy movie where one gets to atone and correct for being young and stupid. And I guess we all continue to do this is some way or fashion. "Mr. 3000" also does this with a sense of humor. This is a great thing.

The Most Entertaining Moment in Milwaukee Brewers History - 12 March 2005
Bernie Mac plays a spoiled baseball player who does not like the media, does not respect the fans, and has no use for his teammates in the movie Mr. 3000. Is he playing, perhaps, a cartoon of a present day super star, perhaps one who plays left field in San Francisco? Regardless, Mr. 3000 is one of the hundreds of baseball movies that have come down the pike, and like most baseball movies, the super stars are jerks and everyone else on the team are just there to fill the background. This is not to say the movie is not entertaining, it does have several amusing moments and the baseball action is perhaps the most realistic in a movie, it is just that the movie does not break much new ground. Bernic Mac plays Stan Ross, an egotistical super star who retires the same night he gets his 3000th hit, the traditional statistic that gets a player into the Hall of Fame. However, because of the bridges he burned with the media, Ross cannot get into the Hall of Fame, and to make matters worst, it is found out that Ross didn't get 3000 hits, rather 2997 hits. So Ross needs to come out of retirement, not an easy task for a player out of the league for 9 years. Fat and out of shape, Ross beings his comeback. While not popular with the media, he is popular with the fans, as seen in perhaps the funniest scene of the movie where an old middle relief pitcher who still hates Ross is the only player who would volunteer to introduce him at his number retirement ceremony, and this popularity with the fans motivates the Brewers' owner (Chris Noth) to let the old player be apart of the team. The humor comes from Mac's natural charm an his ability to ham it up when playing the self-absorbing ball player. Sure there are certain sports formulas throughout the movie, but it is still entertaining enough to warrant a view, if for nothing else but to see Bernie Mac do what he does, or to see the very nice looking Angela Bassett as an ESPN reporter. Baseball fans will notice a few things that could upset them (how many times do the Brewers and Astros play?), but a nice touch was how good the on-field action looks and all of those sports talking heads play a part in this movie. Even a nit-picking sports fan enjoyed Mr. 3000.

A Very Good Movie with a Message - 21 September 2004
This IS a good movie, in my opinion. Listen up, adults and parents. This is for all those kids, be they 15, 18, or even 25, who may or may not have accomplished anything, but think they know it all, and have life down pat. Whether you like or don't like the acting, dialogue, or plot, Bernie Mac's character represents a lesson, front and center. One good thing about this movie is that there is more than adequate suspense at the end of the film, which is related to the lesson, and therefore renders the movie worth seeing in its entirety. Like Napoleon Dynamite, I believe this movie's IMDb rating will increase over time as more people will look beyond the critiquing elements and see the gem that lies beneath.

* My favorite scene in Mr. 3000:

As someone in the IMDB reviews pointed out, Stan Ross's hit #2999 is a definite chill scene.  I could watch that scene over and over, I love the way the director filmed it.  However, as predictable as the ending is, my favorite scene is still the ending.  Very few baseball movies end the way that this one does.

Mr. 3000 at the IMDB

Mr. 3000 at Wikipedia

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