Review: ‘Mr. Rookie’

A salaryman and father moonlights as a superstar relief pitcher in the engaging Japanese-lingo baseball comedy. Though niche nature of milieu may limit across-the-board appeal, distribs could get solid innings based on fan interest and crossover based on hunky appeal of Kazushige Nagashima and family-related comedy elements.

A salaryman and father moonlights as a superstar relief pitcher in the engaging Japanese-lingo baseball comedy “Mr. Rookie.” Though niche nature of milieu may limit across-the-board appeal, distribs could get solid innings based on fan interest and crossover based on hunky appeal of lead Kazushige Nagashima and family-related comedy elements. Workhorse ancillary seems likely.

Known only by the eponymous sobriquet on the back of his uniform, the masked closer for the Hanshin Tigers has racked up 15 saves without a loss, and is so confident on the mound he trades rude gestures with batters and even shows his arch-enemy the forkball he’s about to strike him out with. That he refuses to appear in away games and passes up the annual All-Star contest only fuels Mr. Rookie’s legend.

Turns out the athlete is Koji Ohara (Nagashima), a 32-year-old employee of a large construction firm, who abandoned baseball for more than a decade after blowing out his shoulder during the national finals of his high school league. Re-injuring the joint while trying to impress his young son Shunsuke (Yoneda Ryo), Ohara is ministered to by masseur Yang (Jun Kunimura), whose restorative regimen is so successful that Tigers manager Segawa (Isao Hashizume) insists on adding Ohara’s newly-regained and blinding fastball to the rotation.

Inevitably, Ohara’s absurdly long hours at work and on the mound create friction with wife Yuko (Mayu Tsuruta), and their intricate bickering on the subject provides many of pic’s best laughs. So too the corporate maneuverings surrounding the media exploitation of the athlete (via potential taste sensation “Mr. Rookie Beer”) inject welcome slapstick, though plot thread of an investigative reporter out to unmask the ballplayer is underdeveloped.

Himself the son of a baseball legend, Nagashima spent eight years in the Japanese bigs and is thus utterly convincing as the cocksure athlete and deferential worker who in the end is only trying to do right by his family. All other players contribute, with Naoto Takenaka particularly funny as Ohara’s manic section chief at the construction firm.

Tech package is impressive, with some 30,000 extras employed for lengthy and satisfying game sequences at Koshien Stadium, where storied Tigers actually play. Late-inning heroics are provided by journeyman American slugger Randy Bass, who subsequently played five years for the Tigers and led them to the Japan series title in 1985.

Mr. Rookie

Japan

Production

A Mr. Rookie Film Partners presentation of a K Factory production. (International sales: Kadokawa Shoten Publishing Co., Tokyo.) Produced by Misamu Tamura, Junji Akai, Keitaro Shimizu. Directed by Satoshi Isaka. Screenplay, Isaka, Takashi Suzuki, from the novel by Dankan.

Crew

Camera (color), Tetsuro Sano; editor, Junichi Kikuchi; music, Kaoru Wada; production designer, Iwao Saito; sound (DTS Stereo), Yoshitaka Imai. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (Focus on Japanese Cinema), Aug. 24, 2002. Running time: 118 MIN.

With

Kazushige Nagashima, Mayu Tsuruta, Jun Kunimura, Mirai Yanamoto, Tamao Sato, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Takeo Nakahara, Yasuhito Shimao, Ryo Yoneda, Shigeru Kouyama, Norihiro Komada, Shin Takuma, Naoto Takenaka, Isao Hashizume.
Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More Film News from Variety

Loading