Everyone's Hero is as bland and innocuous as movies come these days, although it has heart and enough decent moral foundation to let little Junior take a peek at it sometime on DVD.
Set in 1932, this animated movie tells the story of Yankee Irving (voiced by Jake T. Austin), a ten-year-old boy who loves baseball but always finds himself getting picked last to play with the neighborhood kids. Still, his love for the game is alive and well, especially since his dad (voiced by Mandy Patinkin) works as a janitor at Yankee Stadium, where the legendary Babe Ruth (voiced by Brian Dennehy) and his crackerjack home runs keep spirits lifted as the Great Depression presses onward. But all of that changes when Babe's lucky bat, Darlin', gets stolen by sleazy Chicago Cubs pitcher Lefty Maginnis (voiced by William H. Macy), after which Yankee's dad ends up taking the blame and getting fired. Not wanting to see his dad out of work or see Babe play without the bat that's brought him so much luck, Yankee sets off on a grand adventure, accompanied by a talking/wisecracking baseball named Screwie (voiced by Rob Reiner), to rescue Darlin' for the sake of his family and his favorite ballplayer.
Suspension of disbelief is something required for about 85 percent of the movies I see, but while watching this one, I had even more trouble buying into what Everyone's Hero was selling (you know something's awry when I'm debating the logistics of an animated movie). At its heart, this is a fairly modest little flick about believing in yourself and appreciating the value of trying again when you've failed at something, a lesson I can dig and one that will appeal to most kids and their parents. But aside from its sweet message and some fairly decent animation (Yankee Stadium does look pretty good in cartoon form), Everyone's Hero nevertheless served up some off-putting elements that continued to distance me from full involvement in the story.
The idea of Yankee being able to talk not only to Screwie but also to Darlin' (voiced by Whoopi Goldberg) makes for some goofy banter to keep the kids entertained, but it's actually a pretty flimsy plot device when you realize the script doesn't explain why Yankee is the only one they can talk to. Why doesn't anyone care or notice that a baseball and a wooden bat are moving around by themselves? I also had to stop and think if the Cubs really knew what the filmmakers had in store when they agreed to be depicted as a bunch of thieving little sneaks, led by a borderline-psychotic manager voiced by an uncredited Robin Williams. And I may be just getting a lot more cynical with age (and at 21, I'll probably be totally jaded by the end of the decade), but the movie's climax, set at the final game of the 1932 World Series, seemed a little too far-fetched for me. It's one thing to create an animated universe where anything goes, but to take that wackiness and set it against a backdrop of real people, places, and events is just asking for trouble from some of the more curmudgeonly patrons.
Everyone's Hero isn't a total washout, when all's said and done. The movie has a good heart, totes a tidy little moral lesson that doesn't get too preachy, and features some fun vocal performances (Macy's nefarious Lefty is a hoot). But at a time when something like Monster House provides a big breath of fresh air, Everyone's Hero is about as effective as a mild breeze, just enough to cool you down for a bit but not enough to keep you from looking elsewhere for comfort.
MY RATING: ** (out of ****)
(Released by Twentieth Century Fox and rated "G" as suitable for all audiences.)