I've always found Albert Brooks very funny. Although his films have had some ups and downs, there have been some terrific pictures (1996's "Mother" is a highlight) and great appearances (several "Simpsons" episodes). Unfortunately, 1994's "The Scout" seems to be the lowest point of Brooks's recent career - although not entirely terrible, the picture is rather laugh-free for the majority of its running time.
Brooks (who also co-wrote) stars as Al Percolo, a New York Yankees talent scout whose gift for judging talent has begun to run out. His latest finds have either been failures, or, as with the most recent addition, a religious young man (Michael Rappaport) who would rather be in school. Unfortunately, he waited till the day of his big-league debut to realize this fact. On a forced trip to Mexico, he runs across the prospect of a lifetime: Steve Nebraska (Brendan Fraser), who can not only throw incredibly well, but shows strong power at bat.
The Yankees, tired of having Al around, fire him before he can actually bring back Steve to America. Offering a demonstration of his ability at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees realize their failure and snap him up to the tune of 55 million dollars. The team only wants one thing - a psychological examination to make sure that Steve isn't going to flake out like the past players that Al has brought to the team. A visit to doctor H. Aaron (get it?) does reveal that Steve may have some serious issues. Yet, the film seems to have cut out most of the sequences that discuss this, leaving the remainder of the scenes that focus on this thin, strange and awkward.
Director Michael Ritchie's picture attempts to merge a sports comedy with a rather melodramatic picture and both really don't work well with one another. The film starts off as a light comedy, but Brooks's character is too unsympathetic to care about and the lines fall flat, which is suprising, given the previous credits of Brooks and writing parter Monica Johnson. Fraser's character is often nothing short of irritating, singing and dancing with a blank stare on his face. I've liked his performances in other films, but he's often creepy here - there's a particularly painful scene where Fraser attempts to offer an off-tune version of Tony Bennett's "I Left My Heart In San Fransisco". At any time when Fraser's character is suffering from problems, Bill Conti's score turns into sappiness.
Although Brooks does have some moments during "The Scout", this is simply a movie whose pieces don't fit together as a whole. The heavy drama is awkwardly and weakly handled and the comedy simply isn't very funny. An unfortunate misfire for Brooks and Fraser.
VIDEO: Fox presents "The Scout" in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen edition. The presentation is a mixed bag, which suprised me given the studio's terrific transfers of titles both large and small. Sharpness and detail seemed only okay - some scenes appeared noticably soft, while other scenes appeared closer to what I'd consider well-defined. Although the picture never looked completely crisp, it did at least appear decent.
Although print flaws never became a real concern, I did notice the occasional speckles and light grit on the print used. Also visible were some minor instances of visible edge enhancement and a few traces of pixelation. Suprisingly, a few scenes also showed some light grain and looked lightly washed out. Colors appeared fairly well-rendered, but never really that vibrant or strong. Flesh tones also appeared usually natural, but there were a few sequences where they appeared a bit off. This is only a fair transfer.
SOUND: Fox presents "The Scout" in Dolby Digital 4.0. Like the image quality, this is only a fair effort that remains moderately enjoyable. As expected from a comedy, the focus of the film's audio remains the dialogue. The surrounds rarely come into action - they simply offer the occasional bit of music. Dialogue sounded mediocre, as it was either lightly overshadowed by the music or sounded rather flat and unnatural.
MENUS:: Although menus are static, they are nicely designed with film-themed images.
EXTRAS:: A newsclip about the 1994 baseball strike, a short promotional featurette about the production, 8 TV spots, the film's theatrical trailer and trailers for "Bedazzled", "Monkeybone" and "Airheads".
Final Thoughts: Unless you're a fan of the film, baseball fans should check out "61" or even Kevin Costner's "Field Of Dreams" or "For Love of the Game" if they're looking for a baseball movie. Fox's DVD release does offer only mediocre audio/video and only a couple of slight supplements.
The Film * 1/2
Video 80/B- = (320/400 possible points)
Audio: 82/B = (328/400 possible points)
Extras: 71/C = (213/300 possible points)
Menus: 70/C- = (140/200 possible points)
Value: 80/B- = (240/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: * 1/2
DVD GRADE: C