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The Scout

Albert Brooks is a funny man; so is Brendan Fraser. But the two actors tend to shine in very different types of comedy — Brooks is at his best with dry, witty, cynical comedy (Broadcast News), while Fraser works well in situations that utilize his talent for sweet earnestness (Bedazzled). The Scout (1994) mixes the two actors' styles and specialties in a way that never quite serves either one as well as it could — the result is an unevenly funny baseball movie that throws in a few too many dramatic curveballs for its own good. After all, with a story about a wacky, superhumanly talented baseball player who can pitch faster than 100 mph and knock a ball out of the park every time he goes up to bat, the sentimental, serious bits ultimately ring false. This is a fantasy, not Ordinary People. It all starts when New York Yankees scout Al Percolo (Brooks), banished to Mexico after his previous "find" turns out to be a dud, discovers Steve Nebraska (Fraser). Steve is a baseball wonder, a veritable King Kong of a player who ends up scoring a $55 million contract when Al brings him back to The Big Apple. But it turns out Steve's uninhibited, childlike behavior (bouncing on the bed, singing along with Tony Bennett at a concert, etc.) is masking a seriously troubled mind — ha ha — which Al needs to deal with before the Yankees will fork over the cash. Enter the cleverly named psychiatrist Dr. H. Aaron (Dianne Weist). As she helps Steve's head heal, his confidence on the baseball diamond suffers, sending Al into paroxysms of angst and worrying the Yankees' head honchos (George Steinbrenner plays himself, as do some of baseball's other big names). But this is a comedy, so it's no surprise that everything works out — it's just too bad the path to the happy ending passes through more mushy moments than belly laughs. Brooks, who took a crack at the screenplay and has a writing credit, should know better. Fox's DVD offers an anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) from a print that has aged well, and the DD 4.0 audio is clear and strong (an English stereo track and English captions are also available). A healthy list of special features includes eight TV spots, the trailer, trailers for other Fox movies on DVD, and two brief featurettes. The first is a typical behind-the-scenes gushfest; the second focuses on some of the film's real-life ball players, who made the picture during the 1994 baseball strike. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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