|Written by Dan Macintosh|
|Tuesday, 01 February 2005|
“Mr. 3000” is only loosely based upon the controversial life of Barry Bonds. Bernie Mac’s Stan Ross character, much like the real Bonds, is a talented baseball player who is tolerated by the press, disliked by teammates and respected – for his stellar statistics, at least – by the fans. This story begins with Ross retiring after reaching his 3,000th major league hit, which is the magic number Ross is convinced will secure him a place in baseball’s hallowed Hall Of Fame. But 10 years after his retirement, it’s discovered that three of his big league hits were credited to him in error, which leaves him three successful at-bats away from his golden goal of 3,000. And just to make darn sure he gets all of his ducks in a row, Ross embarks on a professional comeback in order to set the record books straight.
This comeback decision is the ultimate selfish act in a career already characterized by consistently inconsiderate behavior. As the story goes, Ross had originally left The Brewers midseason when he’d supposedly reached his multi-thousand hit goal the first time around – even though his team was still in the pennant race at the time and could have certainly used his consistent hitting. Surprisingly, at least by baseball standards, his old manager is still the skipper of the team when he returns this second time a decade later. But not surprisingly, however, this manager -- played grumpily here by Paul Sorvino -- is none too happy to see his face again. Additionally, his new teammates, who know his poor reputation all too well, and the jilted and disrespected media are equally unthrilled to witness this aging athletic encore. The team owner is about the only other person – besides Ross himself, of course – who is salivating about this last shot at statistical redemption, since this star athlete at least has the chance to put a few butts in the seats to watch a last place team finishing out its sorry season.
The humor of “Mr. 3000” kicks into its highest gear when Ross begins training for his grand return to the big leagues. A decade of sitting around bars, just drinking and reliving past glories, doesn’t do much to keep a body in shape – even with a previously exemplary one, such as Ross’s. Bernie Mac is at the top of his comedic game while making frustrated faces at how all this exercise places such a strain on his long dormant muscles. Even funnier, however, are the brief moments when Mac’s character spends time with Fukuda, a transplanted Japanese baseball player. Fukuda has learned enough English to get along in the pros, but for whatever reason, his lessons in how to cuss American style were somehow woefully lost in the translation. This makes for some hilarious moments where Fukuda cusses out Ross, only to find Ross reacting to these profanities with utter confusion rather than anger.
Ross’s old school old flame Mo is played by Angela Bassett. Mo is a national sports reporter who has been assigned to cover Ross’s professional second act. It is obvious that these two still have feelings for each other, but just like almost everybody else in Ross’s life, Mo has trouble completely forgiving the man for his past nearly unforgivable deeds. Back in the day, Ross treated Mo much like any other road groupie, instead of a whole person who had more than just physically beautiful attributes to offer. At first, Mo is reluctant to give into any animalistic sexual urges, but before too long Mo and Ross return to the most familiar common setting for them – the bedroom. But when Ross’s hitting prowess starts taking a long time to get back up to snuff, and it begins to look like it’ll be a while before the ballplayer re-reaches his 3000 hit pinnacle again, Mo must move on to other more newsworthy sports stories. It’s a sad revelation when Ross realizes that he’s not the only game in town anymore, both professionally and personally.
Had this story remained harshly true to life, the producers would have left Ross to stew in his own self-centered mistakes. But unlike, say, “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” where Larry David is hilariously beyond personal redemption, Mac’s character begrudgingly discovers the errors of his past ways by film’s end. For instance, one of his muscular new teammates -- aptly named T-Rex -- is the mirror image of the youthful Ross. In T-Rex, Ross can see himself as a younger, more foolish man. T-Rex is the Brewer’s biggest home run hitter, and just like the old Ross, he only looks out for number one, without even a passing thought about the team. Seeing the personality monster he’s inspired in T-Rex, Ross begins to think “team first” for the first time in his grown life, which leads him to put individual statistics second. This revelation also gives him a chance to counsel T-Rex out of making some of the same mistakes he’d made. There’s one pivotal moment where Ross is shown inside his big luxury house, watching TV all alone. Baseball may have been good to him, but because he wasn’t equally good back to baseball or particularly nice to humanity in general, he's left by himself to contemplate these bitter fruits of his labor.
Baseball isn’t the only area rethought here. In the end, Ross also realizes that Mo is more than just a sexual conquest. His loneliness causes him to become acutely aware of the companionship void in his life. The movie ends by showing Mo and Ross as a couple, which caps the story off with a nice touch of sweetness.
Putting all of this sweetness aside, the realities of modern day sports are far less appetizing. For instance, this movie doesn’t even approach the hot topic of steroid use in sports, specifically in baseball. At the top of this list of steroid-using suspects is Barry Bonds himself. It seems plausible that Mac’s character would also be a steroid user, since he seemingly lived for personal success at any cost. But then again, this film is stacked high with guest appearances by professional baseball players and name sportscasters, folks who may not want to have their names tarnished with such controversial subject matter. Nevertheless, it does seem a little bit like a sin of omission not to at least make mention of MLB steroid use. Even the most casual baseball fan realizes that if steroids are being used by pro players, it severely jeopardizes many of the league’s recent hitting and homerun records.
This movie may not contain Bernie Mac’s funniest onscreen moments, but because it gives viewers a few serious topics to ponder, it’s almost guaranteed to make you think while you laugh.