Captures Japanese life and Baseball incredibly accurately!
Shashank Tripathi | Gadabout | 05/15/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For one thing, this movie pivoted on the theme of baseball is a world better than the Madonna/Davis starring "A league of their own" or the more recent travesties like "A field of dreams". For another, the schism between American and Japanese ideologies/way of life is just so truly captured that it is difficult to believe this movie is not the de-facto recommendation for people interested in Japan. Guess it missed out on the major league scene because, well, quite literally it is not about US major leagues? A US baseball star (Selleck) is traded to a Japanese baseball team and finds himself at intellectual loggerheads with the extant coach of the team. This, plus a slight romantic sub-plot as he falls in love with the coach's daughter. Barring some minor cheesy moments -- e.g., when the coach takes Selleck to a golf driving range and makes him hit the balls with a baseball bat, only to hear "I want to hit balls" instead of "I want to hit baseballs"...hmm -- the accuracy of Japanese life is truly stunning. Including, eating ramen with vociferous slurps, digging chopsticks vertically in rice bowls being a no-no, the language used to communicate between the American/Japanese, even a scene with a real on-sen. A refreshing break after stereotype galore seen in movies of that time, including the entertaining "Black Rain" or the absolutely goofball "Rising Sun". To cut to the chase, this is an under-rated gem of a movie, very well shot, some messages about life and profession as seen from two very different perspectives that are likely to resonate with either side. Selleck takes the cake with his acting, baring his tush (literally, I may add) to portray a grouchy American, snubbing people relentlessly and throwing tantrums in public, then letting us inside this character to understand his views. Takakura Ken, needless to say, is fascinating as usual. A must watch if you are interested in Japan, or baseball, or a good light-hearted cross cultural take on life and sport."
Heartwarming drama hiding behind a light sports comedy
David B. Spalding | Chromejob-dot-com | 01/05/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"MR. BASEBALL is a film of paradoxes. Written and filmed as a "light, sports comedy" it truly has a heartwarming core as human and universal as some of Capra's finest. At the plot level, you have the paradox of baseball, a fine old American game, as it is played in Japan - turned around, with American values cast off and Japanese values imprinted upon the game. (Some of the superficial "sports comedy" results from Jack's uncomprehending disbelief at how "basa-boru" is played in Japan.) You also have a lead character who's presented as an over-the-hill, aging baseball star, but who is actually quite immature - pro ball allowed him to postpone growing up. And you have a lead character who is rudely resistant to the changes in his life that are being forced upon him, refusing to accept the curveball that life has given him, in the midst of a new country, a new manager, a new team, and a new girlfriend, who have all welcomed him and try to accept him. Sound like heavy stuff? Not really. It's a charming "clash of cultures" comedy that takes place on the national, sports, romantic, and professional levels. But if you watch it sensitively enough, you will also find a great story about a man who has to abandon his immaturity and grow up way too late in life (causing some amount of personal pain), and finds success in places he never expected it. I love the story, but I also have great respect for Selleck's performance; he bares his tush (literally) to portray an ugly American, insulting people and throwing tantrums in public, then lets us inside this character to understand his dismay. It also doesn't hurt if you're a big fan of Takakura Ken like I am. MR. BASEBALL is a surprising "loss of innocence" tale."
Mr. Baseball is a HOOT!
Gordon T. Ashlee | Misawa Air Base, Northern Japan | 04/12/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I loved this movie! It is so funny and yet so many of the situations in Japan are similar to my own experiences. If you've never been to Japan, you will still laugh at all the right places for the right reasons. If you've been to Japan, it will be that much funnier. The scene where Tom Selleck drags his interpreter into his apartment is great because a Japanese person would NEVER wear his shoes indoors, so the scene where this poor soul is being dragged into the room by his tie and trying to kick off his shoes is classic. Watch it, you won't be disappointed!"
Worlds collide, no one leaves unchanged
raboof | Tokyo, Japan | 10/30/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Tom Selleck plays Jack Elliot in this funny and insightful comedy about an American baseball player 'demoted' to the Japanese league. It has all the cultural in-jokes that you'd expect including "Taking a bath before washing", "Wearing shoes indoors", and "You say one thing, the translator will make it sound nice".But at the heart of the movie, the story is all about accepting foreign culture. Jack butts heads with Japanese culture. He is loose, relaxed, and immature. The Japanese are tight, uptight, and very serious. As long as everyone sees him as an outsider, they will respect him in public but doubt him in private, and he will never truly fit in.After a series of humiliating losses, he finally reaches the point where he realizes that his strength and skill are not enough to defeat his problems and he turns to the coach and Japanese culture to help him overcome his ego. The coach admonishes him to stop feeding off of his past successes lest he eat all those successes away, look only to the future in other words. He does so and the rest of the movie shows Elliot becoming stronger in the stadium and spiritual world. By embracing the Japanese Way, he becomes a better person.However, the flip side to this movie is that the Japanese Way has led to a failing baseball team. Despite the coach's best efforts to harangue the players into playing well, they are too gunshy to play their best. It isn't until the coach accepts that the softer method of coaching based on encouraging the players and fostering a team spirit that the team's slump ends. Jack Elliot made his own mark on the team by bringing trademark American-style attitude to the team.In the end the message is clear. At the micro-level, the Japanese style of living with its emphasis on detail, cooperation, and austerity is beneficial, and the American style emphasizing laziness, freedom, and individuality is detrimental. At the macro-level, though, the message is quite the opposite. Success is brought by each individual's freedom to make mistakes, being relaxed, and not having an oppressive culture looming above.It's a fun movie with a lot of insight into the Japanese culture as well as insight into American culture. Well worth renting at least once."
Not just a baseball flick
Stephen E. Lewis | 08/31/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"You don't have to be a baseball fan to love this movie. The comedic backwash of two completely opposite cultures clashing drives this movie and Selleck and crew work it magnificently without being demeaning to either. It is really a satisfying movie and can be enjoyed by all ages. Remember, you don't have to be baseball fan to love it."