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Published: Friday, 9/17/2004

Movie review: Mr. 3000 ***

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Mr. 3000 swings for the fences, but it comes up with a single, maybe a double.

Translated, this means that although the Bernie Mac baseball comedy is quite enjoyable, it is hardly memorable, certainly not in the same realm with, say Bull Durham or Major League.

Mac plays Stan Ross, an arrogant, often foul-mouthed slugger who gets his 3,000th hit as his team, the Milwaukee Brewers, is in the middle of a pennant race. Irritated by the questions of the less-than-fawning sportswriters and secure in the knowledge that, with 3,000 hits, there's a place waiting for him in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., Stan quits the game without a thought for his team.

Nine years later, the Brewers are still looking for a pennant and Stan, who has relentlessly traded on his name (Mr. 3000 Lounge, Mr. 3000 hair salon), is still waiting for his call from Cooperstown.

But it's getting harder for the hall of fame voters to ignore Stan's record, and when it looks as if he might have a chance of winning entry, the staff in Cooperstown double checks his record.

What they find is that Stan isn't Mr. 3000, he's Mr. 2997. Three of his hits were counted twice.

When Stan gets the news, the results aren't pretty, but they are predictable: He decides to un-retire and get his last three hits.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on the viewpoint), the Brewers have a place for Stan. The team is in free-fall toward last place in its division, and so few fans are attending games that the Brewers could close off half the stadium and still have seats available.

The only thing that will bring out the fans is Stan's return, and so the ticket-hungry general manager (Chris Noth) agrees.

This gives director Charles Stone III (Drumline) and writers Eric Champnella and Keith Mitchell (Eddie) an opportunity to pile on the clichs, and they miss very few.

But - and it's a big but - clichs are fine, comforting even, if they are done well, and in Mr. 3000, they are.

A condition of Stan's employment is that he get in shape, and he discovers that conditioning isn't what it used to be. Trainers now incorporate spinning and Pilates. Stan can't believe they mean it, until he tries to do them.

Then the media jumps on the story, and everyone from ESPN's Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon to Fox's Tom Arnold to NBC's Jay Leno and sportscaster Dick Enberg gets to comment.

When Stan finally gets to the locker room, there is no love waiting. The team views his return as just one more humiliation in a long season of disappointments. And the word team is used loosely here. It's a collection of egos, with a pitcher with potential (Ian Anthony Dale), a bunch of guys who have given up, and one cocky superstar, rookie T-Rex Pennington (Brian White of UPN's Second Time Around), whose behavior, Stan discovers, is like looking in a mirror. And he doesn't like what he sees.

Although most of the supporting characters are thinly drawn, Angela Bassett has a strong presence as an ESPN reporter who once had a relationship with Stan. And Paul Sorvino is amusing as the coach who never speaks but still gets his point across.

Most of Mr. 3000 is played for laughs. Some of it works, some doesn't, some would work better with less profanity. But Bernie Mac, an older and wiser version of Chris Rock, is fun to watch, and is even able to make the less believable moments palatable.

Mr. 3000 may not deliver the home run that Bernie Mac promises, but as a lightweight comedy, it's a winner nonetheless.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at:

419-724-6130 or ncherry@theblade.com.



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