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MOVIE REVIEW

Reeve's nostalgic yet simplistic final film is a 'Hero' with heart

"Directed by Christopher Reeve."

Whatever else "Everyone's Hero" is and isn't, the thing that most defines it is this opening credit line highlighting its poignant association with Reeve, who was in the middle of making the computer-animated children's film when he died in 2004.

It matters little that Dan St. Pierre and former Pixar animator Colin Brady are also listed as directors and did most of the post-prep work. "Everyone's Hero" is now part of the Reeve legacy -- not only for its creative roots and inspirational themes, but because Dana Reeve, the actor's widow, also worked on the film as a producer and character voice before she died earlier this year. The movie is dedicated to the couple's memory, and their son, Will, also has a small vocal role.

None of the above, needless to say, fits into any star system currently employed by critics. So in moving on to the review portion of this review, it's good to keep in mind that here is a case where reductive ratings are even more idiotic than usual.

"Everyone's Hero" is sincere and heartwarming; sometimes it's funny. And its skillful computer-generated animations can be an eye-catching mix of nostalgic and contemporary sensibilities, as they are especially during a clever train-top chase scene. But the movie's story and dialogue can best be described as simplistic and unsophisticated even for its Little League target audience.

The squeaky-clean, G-rated tale begins in a sandlot just before the 1932 World Series. After striking out (again) in a crucial turn at the plate, 10-year-old Yankee Irving (Jake T. Austin) finds a discarded baseball and brings it home. The boy has an attentive mom (Dana Reeve), but longs for more time with his dad (Mandy Patinkin), who works long hours as a janitor at Yankee Stadium. In the father's absence, Yankee discovers that his baseball can talk.

Right. The ball, named Screwie (Rob Reiner), has a ``field of broken dreams" backstory and a gruff voice that's audible only to the kid. This makes him a handy-size sidekick when Babe Ruth's prized bat is stolen by a dastardly Chicago Cubs pitcher (William H. Macy) and Yankee's dad is blamed. The boy runs away to recover the lumber, save the fictional Series for the Bronx Bombers (in real life they swept the Cubs in '32), and win his papa's job back. Along the way Yankee becomes a slugger himself, with help from the athletic daughter (Raven-Symone) of a Negro League star (Forest Whitaker).

Of course the bat, named Darlin', also speaks (with a Southern accent voiced by Whoopi Goldberg). And Robin Williams gets turned loose as the conniving Cubs owner who orders the abduction of Darlin'. Even real-life Yankees manager Joe Torre chimes in for a few lines before the film's ridiculous end, a denouement that requires suspension of both disbelief and the rules of baseball.

But Yankee's journey is about something more than sport, family values, heroism, and ``keep on swinging" perseverance. It's about honoring a vision. So if it's not in the same league of talking-inanimate-object cartoons as ``Cars," at least we can say it has heart. And that's always more important than stars.

Janice Page can be reached at jpage@globe.com.

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