2004-10-29 / Columnists

‘Mr. 3000’ – Mac Attack

The surprise quality comedy hit of the year is “Mr. 3000.” The secret is that it’s a serious sport drama in comic clothing.

A remarkably moving performance by former standup Bernie Mac adds an unexpected resonance to his character, baseball pro Stan Ross, a super slugger who, at first, appears to be a mean-spirited egoist. Arrogant beyond belief, Ross cares so much about himself and so little about his team, the Milwaukee Brewers, that after he slams his record-breaking 3000th hit run, he quits baseball in the middle of the pennant race. In fact, he stomps into the stands and grabs the historic ball from an open-mouthed young fan. “Like it or not,” he pronounces to the press, “I’m a certified immortal.”

Then, it’s off to endorsement land, with Ross building a “Mr. 3000” shopping mall, its centerpiece being a sports bar/restaurant. Impervious to the loathing around him, he spits back at fans and foes in a packed stadium on Stan Ross Day. There, Brewer’s general manager (Chris North, Big in TV’s “Sex and the City”) can’t find one other old timer, or anyone else, to praise him. However, his comeuppance comes when a record-keeping mistake is discovered nine years after the fact: Three of his hits were logged in twice by accident; Ross is really Mr. 2997. At 47, the former super star is far too out of shape to consider a return to glory, yet he does, rejoining his former team. Barely able to do four pushups, he strikes out in the first five games and is quick becoming a “Grandpa” joke in the Brewer locker room and Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show” monologue. He even fouls on his sex life, losing interest in former flame Mo Simmons (a  smooth and silky Angela Bassett), now an ESPN reporter covering his comeback.

As Ross hits bottom, he learns humility, which is the message of the movie. He becomes a father figure to the team, sharing professional secrets with teammates and berating the new hotshot hitter T-Rex Pennebaker (Brian White) for acting like the ass that he once was. Mac handles the comic/dramatic twists and turns of the story in a true movie star manner, elevating himself above the second-string jokester status of his “Charlie’s Angels” days. The film is also smartly directed by Charles Stones III, best known for his “Whassup?” beer commercials.

“Mr. 3000” is a homerun for Mac, who should soon see World Series-level stardom.

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