Review: Films Set In Japan – ‘Mr Baseball’ (1992)

As I was watching Brad Pitt in ‘Moneyball‘ on the way back to England recently I found it very hard to not keep comparing it to ‘Mr Baseball’ which as far as I’m concerned is the greatest baseball movie out there. Admittedly I’m in a minority on that one and it’s fair to say that when I settled down to watch this light, sports comedy my mind was very sceptical as I had never really watched anything with Tom Selleck in (maybe I was frightened off by his huge moustache!) and I don’t like baseball. Ultimately though I ended up enjoying it.

Jack Elliot (Selleck) is an aging Major League baseball player who only has one offer on the table and that is in Japan with the Chunichi Dragons from Nagoya. As someone who has lived here for many years now it is maybe more easy to understand and relate to the jokes and references to the differences between western life and life in the east. Not only that but it also includes differences between the two codes of the game not that I have a clue about that kind of thing!

Sure, this film features some of the regular jokes such as him knocking his head on the ceiling on his arrival in the land of ‘lots of little people walking and talking fast’ and cultural mis-haps like not taking off his shoes indoors, using the Japanese-style squat toilets, exchanging business cards (he gives his picture baseball cards in return) and getting in the bath before washing himself first which the only other gaijin team-mate compares to being like ‘jerking off before having sex!’

The Japanese are famous for eating their noodles noisily and when given the green light to follow suit he does in typical exaggerated fashion which really did have me laughing out loud as his slurping is so ridiculous. Selleck plays the rude, bad-tempered and arrogant American so well as he struggles to fit in to a society which is a world away from what he knows. In one particular scene he is fined for his attitude and promptly stumps up the cash with a bit extra thrown in for good measure. When asked what that money is for he says its for the next time and then he proceeds to put his bat through some locker room equipment. Furthermore, he says what he thinks, particularly at his first press conference, but his interpreter changes his words to save face. However, he is left bemused when Selleck uses the ‘it aint over till the fat lady sings’ idiom which he isn’t aware of and so tells the rest of the team that a fat lady will sing for them after the game!

Unbeknown to him he starts dating the daughter of his coach played by Ken Takakura (who was in ‘Black Rain‘ and ‘The Yakuza‘) which results in him changing character in rather predictable fashion. As much as one can tell what’s going to happen in this film its a fun movie and one which anyone who has been here will be able to identify with in some way.