Gregory J. Lanesey
For my 3000th career movie, I chose the aptly named Chasing 3000, an entertaining family movie about two huge baseball fans traveling across country to see their favorite baseball player get his 3000th career hit. That player is Roberto Clemente. The year was 1972. Like almost all corny sports movies, it is told via flashback.
Mickey (Ray Liotta) is driving his two kids to a Pittsburgh Pirates game in present day for Roberto Clemente Day. He gets pulled over by a cop, who gives a tearful recollection of Clemente and of course lets him off with a warning. This causes Mickey to begin telling his own story of Clemente’s 3000th hit to his kids. “Not another ‘70s story!” He talks about him (Trevor Morgan) and his younger brother Roger (Rory Culkin), who has MD and severe bronchitis, and how they had to move out of the paradise of Pittsburgh to horrible California. Their father runs out on the family. Young Mickey plays high school baseball, while Roger watches and “plays through Mickey”. Mickey starts to struggle at the plate and longs to be back in the ‘Burgh. As their favorite player and living legend Roberto Clemente closes in on his 3000th hit, he decides to skip out on his baseball team and family to travel 2468 miles (to be exact!) to Pittsburgh to catch his milestone hit. Roger, after overhearing some discouraging news about his health, convinces Mickey to let him tag along as a last hurray. It is their cross-country journey that is the meat of this family movie.
Gregory J. Lanesey directed and co-wrote this movie based on true events. I say “based on” because there are serious logic issues that make me wonder how much actually happened. For example, it is the middle of his high school baseball season, but it was September when Clemente got his big hit. Hm… The movie is competently put together, though. It does its best to not offend anyone, seeing as how it is a PG movie. Naturally, the characters talk like they are in a ‘50s TV show. “Shut up, you lame-wad!” “Buzz off, jerk-weed!” It is constantly trying to be tear-jerking and politically correct. The disabled character is basically a baseball genius. There are tearful checkpoints throughout the movie in which people give speeches about family or baseball. It is essentially as indulgent in its story in as Game 6, but nowhere near as interesting.
The corniness piles up as the movie draws toward its end. They say exactly 2468 miles, but we hear Mickey say “We came 3000 miles for this?” Ah I see…symbolism. Just like Mickey and Roger being the names of the brothers. Yeah, nice subtlety there. If only this movie could have been as great as *61. The movie comes off as some sort of family baseball movie version of Offside or something. Not only to Mickey and Roger run away from home, but they also hitchhike, jump a train, break out of a hospital, sleep in a barn and a church. They are fugitives, but they seem convinced that they aren’t. The movie makes that very clear.
In the end, the movie is satisfying enough. It never takes a risk and never really strays from its path. There is no wonder why this movie was stuck in post production forever looking for a release. It does everything to try to be the next classic baseball movie, but instead it just falls flat. There are some good sequences and the performances by Culkin and Morgan are strong, but they use so many baseball movie clichés. They make Roberto Clemente out to be the Pope or something. They are risking everything, including Roger’s life, to maybe make it to Pittsburgh to see one hit. Clearly they knew Clemente would never get another hit in his career, right? Seeing a piece of baseball history is worth everything, right? Pittsburgh thunderstorms are better than California sunshine, right? Baseball is life, right?
Chasing 3000 is right in the middle for me. It is not the worst sports movie I have seen. I could have chosen a sure-fire movie for Film #3000, but I just couldn’t resist something with such a perfect title (it’s a good thing I had already seen the dreadful Mr. 3000). If you like baseball and corny road trip movies, then this movie is certainly for you. Despite all of the deficiencies the movie has, it is still good enough to warrant a glance. If you manage your expectations, this could turn into something decent. For me, it is just another 2 star film to add to the scrapbook. Here’s to getting to #4000!
Rating: 2 stars
Milestone Film #3000, 8/2/13