Friday, May 30, 2008

The funniest movie you'll see all year

I can say without a doubt that my roommates and I have the greatest collection of "save-until-delete" programming on a DVR player in all of the state of California.

This comes with an important caveat, however. We don't specialize in the "Citizen Kane" or "Gone With The Wind" classics, or even the "Gone in 60 Seconds" popcorn fare of the silver screen. No, we choose to celebrate the movies that time forgot ... and the stars that tried to. Monique's "Phat Girls", Cameron "My Dad is Michael" Douglass' "Adam & Eve" , VH-1's "Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story", Natasha Kinksi's "Cracker Jack". The list, literally, goes on and on.

What our DVR had been missing however, was a laughably-awful sports movie. That was, of course, until "Joe Torre: Curveballs Along The Way".

Wow. Where to start. This 1997 Showtime original feature was rushed to production months after the Yankees' 1996 title, and it shows. Dear God it shows. I could talk in depth about the shoddy acting, shoe-horned plot elements and embarrassing set designs, but for the sake of covering all the bases, I'm going to break this down into four parts.

Paul Sorvino's portrayal of Joe Torre
It's hard not to think about Sorvino pondering in his trailer whether it had really been only seven years since he played a lead character in Scorsese's "Goodfellas". A pay check is a pay check I suppose, and Paul Cicero mails this one in with great aplomb. Wisely, the film's producers secured a known Hollywood entity to play the part of Torre, but this fails on two levels. One, Sorvino is a bit, ahem, robust physically, and one has to wonder if Joe was upset to be the first biopic subject to be portrayed by a less attractive person. Secondly, the ham-fisted vision of Torre and his Italian-American family is stunning, with cliched dialogue and poor plot-pacing that somehow managed to muddle the engaging real-life stories of Rocco and Frank Torre.

The portrayal of the 1996 Yankees
You seriously have to wonder if the casting director of "Curveballs" took the time to see what the players on the 1996 Yankees roster actually looked like. Baseball players are professional athletes, and professional athletes are big dudes, not scrawny weaklings. No actor looks even remotely similar to the player he is portraying, with the exception of Dwight Gooden, played by former "Gray's Anatomy" star Isiah Washington. That said, Washington throws like a 13-year-old girl, so even that's a lost cause. Wade Boggs looks like a heroin addict. Paul O'Neill looks like my mechanic. As for Darryl Strawberry, my only guess is they hired the first black dude that walked into the audition. The best of the bunch here is the guy who plays David Cone, who would later go on to marry Tori Spelling. This makes a lot of sense for some reason.

Steinbrenner-Watson dynamic
If you believed Larry David's portrayal of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was humorous, you may die laughing watching this. Predictably, The Boss is portrayed as impatient and impetuous and is decked out in a white turtleneck and blazer throughout. The actor portraying GM Bob Watson -- presumably the second black dude in line at the Strawberry audition -- only serves to stand in the background and furrow his brow as Steinbrenner rants. Also of note is Steinbrenner's office, which looks exactly what you would think the owner of the New York Yankees' office would look like ... if he was six years old.

Gameplay recreation
Here's the thing that Hollywood needs to learn about sports movies. Us fans are sticklers for details. If you don't stay true to the look, rules and feel of a game -- this is especially true in baseball -- you will take us out of your reality. We will turn on you. Quickly. "Curveballs" tries to splice in real-life highlights with the filmed scenes, an idea good in theory but shockingly poor in execution. A bullet list of errors on the field:

  • The Yankees are wearing uniforms outfitted by Majestic. The Yankees have never been officially outfitted by Majestic. (I told you we are sticklers.)
  • The Yankees' road uniforms have misshapen lettering and numbering.
  • At one point, Sorvino calls to the bullpen and a reliever appears from behind a left-field wall at Yankee Stadium that is literally 12-feet-high.
  • Shots of the Yankees dugout are drenched in light. Sorvino looks like he's in an interrogation room throughout.
  • A brawl in Seattle takes place outdoors and on natural grass. The Mariners played in the Kingdome in 1996.
  • When we get a close-up shot of Gooden following the trajectory of the final out of his no-hitter, he is looking in the wrong direction (right instead of left) and you see there are only three rows of seats above the dugout. Don't send that scene to the Academy.
  • Other shots behind the action clearly show blue seats that are nothing more than painted slabs of wood.
I'd love to ask Torre his thoughts about the movie, and how much, if at all he was consulted during the making of it. My guess is he turned it off after the opening "Welcome Home Joey" Brooklyn block party that painted his family as underlings in "The Sopranos". But who knows, maybe he loves it. I suppose I'd love any movie about me.

Unless, of course, Joe Pesci was cast in my role. That would suck.

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