The Scout (1994) / Comedy

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language and some adult humor
Running Time: 101 min.

Cast: Albert Brooks, Brendan Fraser, Dianne Wiest, Lane Smith, Michael Rapaport, Anne Twomey, George Steinbrenner
Director:
Michael Ritchie
Screenplay: Andrew Bergman, Albert Brooks, Monica Mcgowan Johnson
Review published March 28, 2003

Baseball comedies are usually an easy sell for me, as I love baseball and movies about it.  Even mediocre films can be somewhat tolerable when set on the stage of America's pastime, and while The Scout is certainly mediocre, there's so little baseball action, that it even worse as a baseball movie than it is as a comedy.

The star of the film is co-writer Albert Brooks (Defending Your Life, Broadcast News), playing Al Percolo, a scout for the New York Yankees who has had a string of bad luck in signing new talent, with the latest youngster falling apart from the pressures of pitching at Yankee Stadium.  The general manager of the team decides that firing Percolo would not be as fun as seeing him languish in the poor regions of Mexico, where baseball is a completely different form of game.  Percolo feels he is wasting his time there, until he discovers Steve Nebraska (Fraser, With Honors), and oddball American who is virtually unhittable as a pitcher and who hits the longest of long-balls as a batter.  After a falling out with the Yankee management, Percolo puts Nebraska up to the highest bidder, but first he must make sure that the strange behavior of Nebraska is worked out by getting clearance by a qualified psychiatrist.

With the right material, The Scout could have been a funny premise for good comedy, but there are just too many missteps for this limp screenplay to ever take hold.  The primary reason why the film is mostly without laughs comes from the unsympathetic characters and the concentration on the money side of baseball that most fans have little tolerance for.  Percolo is seen as a meddling, lying opportunist who has little regard for his employers and even less for his client.  Nebraska is a deeply troubled hothead, too old to be seen as cute in his immaturity.  The organization he plays for also doesn't seem to care about his well-being in the slightest, so long as he performs on game day.  There is little rooting interest in seeing anyone succeed, and the climax of the film falls flat on its face as a result.

The Scout is a so-so time filler for baseball fans or those who like the stars, but probably excruciatingly inept for everyone else.  Director Michael Ritchie (The Couch Trip, The Golden Child) may have made a minor classic with a previous baseball flick, The Bad News Bears, but The Scout is just bad news.


**SPOILERS AND RANTING**

Time for some quibbling here, as most films around baseball seem to get the game completely wrong, and The Scout takes some artistic liberties that annoyed me more than most.  First, Nebraska is both a great hitter and a great pitcher, much more suited to playing for the National League, where pitchers are allowed to hit, instead of the American League New York Yankees His debut as a player comes in the World Series, which makes no sense, since baseball rules do not allow for anyone to play in post-season if they have not played by a certain date for that team.  While playing, Nebraska is also given a chance to bat, which could happen in the World Series when playing in a National League ballpark, but they are at Yankee Stadium, and where the DH rule would see a hitter in Nebraska's place.  Even if the Yankees were to choose Nebraska to do his own hitting, no mention of this astonishing novelty in recent baseball history is given by the baseball announcers, making this a curious oversight.  Also, the Yankees barely squeaked into the playoffs, which would make their hosting of the first game seem incredibly unlikely by 1994 standards.  Lastly, the big batter-pitcher match-up is Nebraska vs. Ozzie Smith!?!  While Ozzie Smith is a great Hall-of-Fame player, it is solely because of his defensive abilities, because as a hitter, he was just average, and would never be seen as the biggest threat in the St. Louis Cardinals line-up.  The fact that they claim he has had an "uncharacteristic 5 post season home runs" is the biggest laugh...Smith has only hit that many in an entire season just once!  Check that guy's bat please!

Qwipster's rating:

2003 Vince Leo