Matt LeBlanc can say a line that from another actor would be sarcastic, nasty, or just plain rude, and make it funny. And in this movie he does, over and over, playing a sweet lovable guy who wants really intensely to be a baseball player – and a successful one.
He is encouraged by his parents, played by Sage Allen and Stan Ivar, and by a scout, played by Gene Ross, and by the two guys at the Santa Rosa Rockets minor league team, played by Jack Warden and Bill Cobbs. I could never figure out if Warden was the head coach or the manager, which would make Cobbs whatever is just below that in the team hierarchy (I’m pretty sure Warden was the head coach, because there were plenty of jerkwads from the front office, one of whom was logically the manager – but that guy was also maybe the son of the owner. As I say, I’m not sure).
There’s a line I really like at the beginning of the film – as LeBlanc’s character Jack Cooper is leaving for his tryout, his dad says, “Have fun!” And Jack comes back with, “Dad, It’s baseball – how could I not have fun?”
Anyway, as the tale of a minor league team struggling toward the playoffs, and a side-by-side story of a young pitcher who wants so badly to show everyone the curveball that he thinks is his best pitch (but which keeps getting hit easily by opposition batters – lucky that his fastball is almost unhittable), this is an effective baseball story. But the title is not “Jack”, it’s “Ed”, and Ed Sullivan is a chimpanzee who is supposed to be the team mascot, but ends up playing third base. As soon as the chimpanzee enters the plot the movie loses 20 points off whatever IQ it had before.
Not that the chimp is bad; he is very well-played by two remarkable actors in a fantastic chimp-suit. But the introduction of that heavy a dose of the cutes is close to fatal. I still liked the movie, and was happy to see Jim Caviezel in an early role as a sympathetic player who gets cut, and I liked Jayne Brook as the love interest, a single mother of an appealing little girl (Doren Fein). And I liked Jim O’Heir from Parks and Rec as Art, and Zack Ward, a real working actor who got his big break as Scott Farkas in A Christmas Story as one of the team. Still, I doubt that I will watch this again. Who knows, maybe in a few years……..
ADDENDUM: The two actors who play the chimpanzee are Jay Caputo and Denise Cheshire, and I apologize for not getting their names in the review initially.