Everyone’s Hero is the movie Christopher Reeves and his wife Dana were working on at the time of his death. Dana’s untimely demise recently followed her husband’s, but she was able to provide the voice for one of the characters in the film, and I feel kind of sacreligious saying anything bad about this charming, but very odd, little CGI animated film. It’s just weird.
The animation is lovely and has the very nicely done nostalgic look and feel of a lush kid’s picture book, so that part they got right. But the story is totally out of left field, with a talking baseball and Babe Ruth’s talking baseball bat, two animated pieces of sports equipment that are never explained. Of course, only the little boy at the center of this story, Yankee Irving, can see the ball and bat talking, so one has to assume that we chalk the characters up to a 10-year old boy’s overactive imagination - but it’s still odd.
Yankee is a poor kid living with his mom and dad in the shadow of Yankee Stadium in 1932. He is obsessed with baseball, but he’s too small to be of much use to the neighborhood teams. His dad works at Yankee Stadium as a groundskeeper, and father and son are strongly bonded over their love of the Yankees, and especially of Babe Ruth. The Babe has a magic bat called Darling, and the Chicago Cubs manager figures that if he can steal the bat he can curse Babe Ruth into a bad hitting streak and allow the Cubs to win the upcoming world series. The Cubs’ manager sends a flunkie pitcher to steal the bat; Yankee’s dad gets blamed and gets fired. Yankee figures out who did the deed, but being a kid, no one believes him.
The rest of the movie is a road picture with Yankee and his talking baseball, named Screwie, out to steal back the Babe’s bat and save his dad’s job. They crisscross the land between New York and Chicago on trains and by foot, meeting all sorts of helpful and colorful folks in their quest. They all end up at the pivotal game of the World Series where the mad chase comes to an end, the Babe and his bat are reunited, and all’s well that ends well.
Maybe kids can just accept a talking baseball and bat, but if the producers could have given these two characters a little bit of history or some slight explanation of why they are able to communicate with Yankee, it wouldn’t have hurt. None the less, if you put aside this missing link in the plot, Everyone’s Hero is beautiful animated eye candy with a stellar A-List cast of voice talent that includes Whoopie Goldberg, Rob Reiner, Robert Wagner, Mandy Patinkin, William H. Macy, and Brian Dennehy. The wee ones will have fun watching this lively cartoon adventure while us adults scratch our heads wondering about a few of the significant character flaws.
That’s not to say the movie doesn’t have its strengths. What I liked a lot about it is the broad and sympathetic look it gives to many of the culture happenings in the 1930s, including the Great Depression, Negro Baseball teams, Babe Ruth, the importance of network radio broadcasts, and more. Hopefully, kids who see this movie may get curious about the time period and start asking questions. All in all this, movie is an interesting way to introduce the current generation of rug rats to a bygone era that even their parents probably don’t know that much about.