To some minds, rating both “The Specialist” and “Angels in the Outfield” with the same single star amounts to a travesty.
After all, “The Specialist” is a violent, R-rated thriller featuring blatant nudity, while “Angels in the Outfield” is a PG-rated Disney film about baseball, spirituality and redemption. What could they possibly have in common?
A distinct lack of quality, maybe?
“The Specialist” has as much depth as a dime novel, even if dime novels run about $5 these days. Of course, that’s the point: Price inflation has little to do with quality.
Starring Sylvester Stallone and Sharon Stone, it is little more than an excuse to show Stallone’s muscles and Stone’s breasts - especially in tandem and intertwined.
“Angels in the Outfield,” on the other hand, is a manipulative bit of over-produced dreck that has no shame about the depths to which it will stoop to reach its audience. Even to those hungry for baseball of any sort, this film likely will be as welcome as a replacement-player World Series.
Which is a fitting comparison when you think about it: Hollywood and professional baseball. It says enough that the first time I typed the film’s title, I typed, “Angles in the Outfield.”
What’s new to view
Available this weekend - “The Specialist” (MCA/Universal), “Only You” (Columbia TriStar), “The Scent of Green Papaya” (Columbia TriStar), “Angels in the Outfield” (Disney), “Crackerjack” (Republic), “The Burning Season” (Warner).
Available Tuesday: “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” (New Line), “Silent Hunter” (New Line), “Nostradamus” (Orion), “Love Affair” (Warner), “Imaginary Crimes” (Warner), “Exit to Eden” (HBO), “It’s Pat” (Touchstone), “A Simple Twist of Fate” (Touchstone), “Camp Nowhere” (Hollywood).
The script for this little romantic comedy is minor indeed: Marisa Tomei, convinced since childhood that she’s destined to be with a man named Damon Bradley, flees after a guy with that name on the eve of her marriage to someone else. Once in Italy, she discovers that her dream lover is… Robert Downey Jr. Or is he? The fun here is in the acting, not only by Tomei and Downey - both of whom are perfectly cast in light comedy - but by little-known Bonnie Hunt, too. And the Italian scenery is almost as good as actually being there. Rated PG.
The Scent of Green Papaya
This period-piece study of a Saigon merchant’s family was Vietnam’s first Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Picture. But don’t let that influence you unduly. Set in two periods, 1951 and then 10 years later, it documents the gradual disintegration of an affluent class that likely no longer exists. But while his film has its qualities, among them some fairly powerful imagery revealed in closeup, writer-director Tran Anh Hung affects a style that is more ponderous than deep, more ambiguous than illuminating. Not rated (but equivalent to a PG-13).
Angels in the Outfield
Michael Medved-type messaging aside, no credible reviewer could have much good to say about a movie that resorts to the most obvious manipulation at virtually every dramatic point. The crowning calculation of this remake of the charming 1951 Paul Douglas film, which involves a baseball team’s comeback from a losing season with the help of a few heavenly hosts, comes in its special effects: Whereas the first movie left something to the imagination, this effort features “real” angels and, so, is about as subtle as Christopher Lloyd’s acting. Which is to say, not very. Danny Glover and, believe it or not, Tony Danza as, respectively, an irascible coach and a burned-out pitcher, provide some substance to the acting. But that’s about it. Rated PG.
In a new low, Sylvester Stallone allows himself to be paired with the somber presence of sashaying Sharon Stone in this senseless little flick about an explosives expert who gets hired by a mystery woman to kill the killers of her parents. Not a frame is believable, from the many big boombooms to the several bared bosoms. Only the presences, both intentionally and accidentally humorous, of James Woods and Rod Steiger (get a load of the accent!) are worth the wait. Rated R.
“Crackerjack” - A group of mercenaries aim to steal jewels at a mountain-top resort, but they run into a capable cop vacationing with his family. Starring Thomas Ian Griffith, Nastassja Kinski and Christopher Plummer. Rated R.