"Mr. 3000" takes the sports-miracle movie and turns it sideways. It shouldn't have stopped there, though. It should have flipped the genre on its head.
Going only halfway makes for a halfway entertaining movie about a conceited professional athlete. (If you assumed it was the story of OutKast's Andre 3000, you're advised to stay home and listen to "The Love Below" instead.)
The conceited professional athlete in "Mr. 3000" is a showboat named Stan Ross, and he's played by the swaggering, slurring Bernie Mac. The movie begins when Stan gets his 3,000th hit for the Milwaukee Brewers, a milestone he finds so great that he announces, with supreme self-satisfaction, that he's getting out of the game.
And so we meet Stan nine years later and find that he's parlayed his feat into a business plan. There he is on Milwaukee television hawking his 3000 Plaza, which contains a barbershop (3000 Cuts), a pet store (3000 Paws), and a Chinese restaurant (3000 Woks). He also owns a bar where his affectionately devoted best friend and ex-teammate Boca (Michael Rispoli) has spent what must be 3,000 nights tending bar. But the riches and the local fame aren't enough: When will the sportswriters elect him into the Hall of Fame?
After an insincere public-relations campaign gets Stan this close to Cooperstown, it's discovered that three of his hits were misrecorded and don't count. So, at 47, he rejoins the last-place Brewers in a quest for the three measly hits. To underscore how unfashionably old-school both he and the movie are, "Y.M.C.A." chugs along to a get-back-in-shape montage. The young, disrespectful players also leave a walker in front of his locker as a welcome back.
The point of "Mr. 3000," of course, is for Stan to dispel his teammates' skepticism and turn around the Brewers' losing spirit. He gives the team's cocky star, T-Rex Pennebaker (Brian J. White), a good talking to, and he teaches Fukuda (Ian Anthony Dale), the Japanese pitcher, how to use profanity more effectively. Whether this healing could help the real-life Brewers out of last place remains to be seen.
This is certainly nice of Stan, but it's pretty standard Hollywood sports-movie stuff. The best action in the movie involves his sparring with Angela Bassett, who shows up as Maureen, a reporter for ESPN, which shares the same parent company as "Mr. 3000" -- Disney. She's an old, wronged flame, and appropriately, in their scenes together, Mac appears to be playing with fire. Fierce as she is, Bassett is relaxed here instead of her usual explosive and intense. She has an easy glamour that movies ought to be ashamed not to use.
The director, Charles Stone III, must have enjoyed having Bassett around, if for no other reason than that she tends to deepen his flat little movie. Ditto for Paul Sorvino, as the taciturn Brewers manager, and sports laureate Dick Enberg, whose play-by-play commentary lends the movie additional authenticity. But Stone's shots are often beer-ad silly and seem beer-ad fake (little of the field stuff is credible), and what feels like half the movie is clips from TV shows. When Stan's hitting slump gets him down, the cast of "The Best Damn Sports Show Period" joins him suddenly in his living room. This is meant to pass for both drama and fantasy.
Unfortunately, Mac's TV show seems to have trained him to settle for feel-good tack-ons that cut against the prickly nature of "Mr. 3000." The actor has such a serious and wise bearing that it's hard to believe Stan as a shallow jackass, which is why several of his scenes with Boca seem phony. The two men tell each other "I love you" too tenderly, too often for it to seem like mere jest. That sort of development might not be what the average baseball fan would show up for, but it certainly would have turned the sports-miracle genre on its head.
Wesley Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.