Mr 3000 (January 30/05)
Given that Bernie Mac's trademarked abrasive persona is far from likeable, it's fairly surprising to note that not only is Mr 3000 a decent little movie - but Mac himself is actually quite charismatic and engaging as the title character. By toning down his obnoxious, repugnant persona (a necessity, presumably, due to the PG-13 rating), Mac is able to create an actual character - something he's never really done before.
The film casts Mac as Stan Ross, a showboating baseball player who quit in the middle of his prime (and during a pivotal season) after hitting an monumental 3000th base hit. He used his newfound fame to open up a series of like-themed stores (ie 3000 Cuts, 3000 Woks, etc), though - years later - finds himself forced to re-up with the Milwaukee Brewers due to a tallying glitch with his 3000 hits (there were only 2997, it seems). Ross uses this opportunity to prove that he can be a team player, a change that impresses an old girlfriend named Mo (Angela Bassett).
Mr 3000 is one of those movies in which various plot developments are telegraphed virtually from the word go - ie Stan's regression into self-centered behavior - yet director Charles Stone III manages to bring a certain sense of freshness to this tired material, imbuing the film with a quirky, easy-going vibe. Because Stan Ross and the various other characters come off as likeable as they do, it's easy enough to overlook some of the more cliched elements in the film's screenplay (some, though, are impossible to ignore - ie a cocky player's shift from egomaniacal jerk to sensitive collaborator, all within the space of a few scenes!)
But Mr 3000 manages to overcome such deficiencies, primarily because we're genuinely rooting for Ross to win back his title - no small feat when you consider how irritating the character is at the film's outset. As the movie progresses, though, and Ross learns the true meaning of teamwork and even rekindles his old relationship with Mo, he becomes a figure that seems to regret his past behavior (this is despite a silly portion of the movie that finds Ross temporarily reverting back to his old ways).
Mr 3000 never quite joins the ranks of great baseball movies like Field of Dreams and Bull Durham, but it comes pretty close - no small feat given the presence of Bernie Mac.