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Rookie of the Year Review

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A young boy is upset when he ends up being the worst player in his baseball team. Then one day he breaks his arm and is forced to briefly stop playing while he recovers. With his arm finally mended, he goes back to play, only to find that he somehow has super strength and can now play better than the rest of his team put together.

★★★★★

Daniel Stern's Baseball-themed directorial debut arrives in the UK as the only real US sleeper hit of last summer, the reason for its success being simple — it's funny, even if you know nothing of America's answer to rounders.

Twelve-year-old Henry Rowengartner (Nicholas) spends his days hanging out with his mates and dreaming of playing professional baseball. Unfortunately, he's a bit of a no-hoper, consigned to spend his time watching from the stands. Then, one fateful day, he breaks his arm; when it heals he finds he can pitch a ball at lOOmph. The local team, the Chicago Cubs (so bad, two wins in a row is considered a streak) sign him up and suddenly all his dreams become reality.

First-timer Stern puts into practice everything he learned from working on TV's The Wonder Years to recall a mythical time when the summer seemed to last forever and fighting with your best friend was the worst thing that could happen. Nicholas, another one of those wise-beyond-their-years kid actors, gets all the best gags, but the adults come off well too, with Stern as the Cubs' barking mad coach, Busey as the ex-hotshot pitcher who becomes Henry's mentor, and Amy Morton as Henry's mum among the stand-outs, though the late John Candy provides an uncredited and hilariously cynical stream of radio commentary from the stands. And the message comes across loud and clear: everyone would have a lot more fun if they played — and lived — like a kid again.

A relatively enjoyable kids' movie that will entertain the kids, but unsurprisingly may leave the adults cold. From the director of The Wonder Years, it doesn't break any new boundaries, but rather sticks with what he knows best, that is sentimental childhood comedies.

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