Baseball, movie fans should pray for deliverance from Glover, Danza film

July 15, 1994|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

Memo: To God.

From: The William Morris Agency.

Maury Poplin, junior sub-agent.

Dear Sir:

I've just seen your new film, "Angels in the Outfield," and may I respectfully suggest you get yourself a better agent. This image retool thing isn't quite working.

Back when you parted the Red Sea for Cecil B. DeMille in "The Ten Commandments" (your best movie, sir, if you don't mind me telling you) you were a STAR! You had elan, majesty, charisma. When Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr embraced before facing the lions in your name in "Quo Vadis," and your choir belted out a chord that sounded like a low-yield tactical nuke detonating over Baghdad, you gave us movie buffs a thrill to our toes. The Fifties were very good to you.

But, sir, as happens to all who toil in filmland, you grew a bit gray in the temples and long in the teeth, and it being a younger man's game, you had to settle for lesser roles. You had to hustle, you had to scuffle. William Prince and Fritz Weaver seemed to get all the parts that were meant for you. Why, in one of your movies, you even took even second billing to George Burns!

I understand it's a tough world for a Celestial Being who hasn't had a hit in close to two decades, but whoever's guiding your career probably should have steered you clear of "Angels in the Outfield." It's a bad career move.

In this movie, sir, you endeavor to alter the natural outcome of the American League West so that the California Angels can win the pennant. Sir, I think you need to focus in on script selection. What bothers me about your participation in this project is that by allowing your emissary (Christopher Lloyd) to answer a child's prayers, you utterly violate the integrity of the game. If the Angels can only win with your help, of what possible value is their victory? It's phony!

Sir, your best image dynamic is your sense of justice. We could get you big again if you'd just be willing to show a little professional discipline and stay within the limits of your image. In this movie, you're a seedy fixer of baseball games! I know Arnold saved his career by playing a villain in the first "Terminator," but he had Jimmy Cameron behind the camera. You only had William Dear. Come on, sir! You can do better than that!

Moreover, your movie removes athletics from their one true zone of value to us. Let me point out that we humans love sports because it's the one field of human endeavor left where we can most be like you: In fact, when we see an athlete perform an act of exceptional grace at a particularly urgent moment, we take heart because he represents human possibility, not your possibility. It's easy for you to hit a major-league fastball, but only about 500 men in a country of close to 300 million can earn a living doing that! If you take that away from us, how can we admire you on screen?

Second, I wonder how rigorously you considered the ramifications of your enlistment in the Angels' cause? For example, on one occasion a Toronto Blue Jay hits a deep center field screamer that has "triple" written all over it. But two of your assistants hoist an Angel into the air and he makes a unbelievable catch. In another instance, Christopher Lloyd bends the foul pole so that an Angel foul ball becomes a home run. But those unfair "victories" for the Angels are defeats for the other player. Suppose the fellow who tagged the triple got cut from the team for failing to get a hit in the clutch and went home and shot his wife and his kids and then himself out of despair? What would you say to him? Consequences, sir: All acts have consequences, especially yours.

Then, sir, with all your powers, couldn't you have taught Tony Danza, who plays a washed-up pitcher whom you help to a last season of grace, how to throw like a boy? And did you have to have a starting pitcher pitch a whole game from a stretch? Must Danny Glover, playing a surly, irascible manager, give a performance just like every other Danny Glover performance?

Finally, sir: Is this really worth your time? Sir, you trivialize yourself and your previous performances. I haven't been so disappointed since Ray Milland starred in "The Incredible Two-Headed Man."

To get you big again, we here at William Morris have mapped a campaign that is both far-reaching and creative. First, you've got to go to Europe and work with some unknown continental director and get some good reviews and some festival coverage. Second, an hour special on HBO would be very helpful, and we think we can bring that off. Third, sir, you've got to do an appearance with David Letterman. (Jay is out. We absolutely forbid Jay; the demographics skew too old.) Fourth: We will go all out to get you into a remake of the OK Corral gunfight story as Doc; that's saved more careers than any Oscar in Hollywood. And fifth: You HAVE to stay out of churches. It's too . . . religious.

Let's do lunch and discuss this further. Have your girl call mine and we'll set it up.

"Angels in the Outfield"

Starring Danny Glover and Tony Danza

Directed by William Dear

Released by Hollywood Pictures

Rated PG

**

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