Mr. 3000 has a great conceit and a handful of memorable moments, but it deals almost entirely in caricatures and isn’t funny enough to justify it. Some of the screenplay is so skillful that one wonders who the hell wrote the other parts, the ones that arbitrarily strip the characters of logic and consistency, trot out Viagra jokes, and make the great Angela Bassett utterly useless. And Bernie Mac proves that, like Will Ferrell, he is invaluable in supporting roles (his turn in Bad Santa was hysterical, and he was the best thing about Head of State) but much less interesting at feature length.
Plenty of decent scripts are written from high concepts, but I think this one took the concept too literally. When someone pitched a story about an asshole baseball player who has to return to the majors to reclaim his 3000 hit record and his spot in the Hall of Fame when a recordkeeping mistake puts him at 2997, there was no need to make him Satan incarnate. He is such an asshole, of course, that he quit the sport the moment he reached the magic number, making sure to snatch the ball from a little boy in the stands on his way out.
Indeed, Stan Ross is so one-dimensionally arrogant, hateful, and evil that it’s hard to care about his inevitable transformation into a team player and an all-around stand-up guy. I mean, the guy leads a stadium full of inexplicably adoring fans in a “vote Stan Ross into the Hall of Fame” chant before breaking into fake tears. You’ll forgive me if I don’t pray for his redemption; this isn’t exactly a guy who’s “good but flawed,” or whatnot. He’s a jerkwad, and we want bad things to happen to him.
There are several things that Mr. 3000 does well. All of the tv personality guest stars — SportCenter, and Leno, and Tom Arnold — get to be a bit much, but the opening Reebok commercial is dead on, as is the reference to the Reading Iz Dope Foundation. Then there’s a scene involving the jaded, silent team manager (Paul Sorvino) that’s so inspired and brilliantly executed that it almost brought tears to my eyes. It’s jarring to be taken from sneering at a movie to having it work on your emotions in a matter of seconds.
The film then delivers almost exactly the ending I had hoped for, though this version doesn’t quite make sense from a baseball standpoint (if anyone would care to explain to me why, for the love of Pete Rose, the opposing team would do what they did in the last inning of a tied game, I’d appreciate it). It’s certainly effective, though, even if the obligatory closing montage dulls its impact quite a bit; had it come at the end of something more coherent, it might have seemed a more significant move.
Bernie Mac, meanwhile, shines in individual moments but can’t sustain his character, though the script isn’t much help. He’s great at facial expressions and momentary outbursts, but doesn’t hold our attention as a full-fledged human being — he’s so much better when he doesn’t quite have to be one. Why can’t first-rate supporting players be content with making us laugh without dominating the screen? And why must they be so irritating when they leave their element?