Angels in the Outfield (And in the Infield)

30 05 2012

In the hallowed halls of sports films, baseball is king, so the sheer number of favorites is nothing short of overwhelming.  You’re likely to hear Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, The NaturalBad News Bears, and even Major League all uttered in the same sentence.  While I enjoy the aforementioned titles to varying degrees, I prefer my baseball when viewed through impractical, rose-colored glasses, so The Sandlot is tops for yours truly.  I maintain, however, that 1994’s Angels in the Outfield is a truly unsung hero for the genre.  While the National Concussion League has dominated in popularity for years, baseball remains this nation’s pastime, so when you add a healthy dose of overt Jesusin’, there’s no challenger to this golden, gift-wrapped Disney package of conventional goodness.  ‘Murrica.

Baseball’s rules are relatively simple; it’s execution on the other hand, frustratingly erratic.  For example, the Cleveland Indians were 32 – 20 at the end of May last year.  They finished the 2011 season 2 games below .500, so I’m convinced that William Dear’s Angels in the Outfield remake is a well-disguised thesis for why a game of skill, streaks, and a whole lotta luck makes absolutely no fucking sense.  We follow the story of Roger (a younger/chubbier Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a foster child who prays that his former California Angels win the pennant almost as much as he prays for his shit bag father to get his life together. Turns out God’s got ears, because he sends his saintly messenger “Al” (Christopher Lloyd) to follow Roger around as well as raise a few questions about the naivete of child abduction in the mid-90’s.  Roger and his ever inquisitive pal, J.P. (Milton Davis, Jr.), meet the Angels’ dejected and short-tempered manager, George Knox (Danny Glover), who channels Billy Martin levels of rage in fashioning baseball’s fictional iteration of Bobby Knight.  Eventually, Knox comes to believe Roger’s crackpot theories that yeah, real freaking angels be helpin’ this team win, skip.  So much so in fact that Knox renews his faith in Tony Danza’s broken down war horse of a pitcher, Mel Clark, who by the way has not started a game in four years.

“Just call me Al!” No, I’m calling the police.

Sure enough, the Angels go on a blessed, holy tear after the All-Star break, moving from last place in the American League West into contention for the division title.  But thaaaat’s baseball!  Unfortunately, the Angels’ secret is unearthed by Jay O. Sanders’ muculent Ranch Wilder, the franchise’s play-by-play man and possible Doritos spokesman, and the club is forced to do some hard thinking about its faith in itself as a team.  Because really, Angels in the Outfield is so bluntly about religion, and when you get down to it, aren’t we all each other’s angels anyway?  Now, go.  Be with God.

However cheesy it may be, I always enjoy watching George Knox vicariously regain his former glory by rallying this lovable band of losers to the AL pennant, and that’s with the added bonus of Randy Edelman’s majestic boner of a score before the final out of the season.  As the unfortunate fan of MLB’s best Triple-A club, the Minnesota Twins, it’s hard not to identify with the Los Angeles of Anaheim California fan base here.  Seeing as how good ‘ole J.H. Christ apparently slides somewhere between Joe Torre and Connie Mack when it comes to all-time great baseball skippers, I can’t help but wonder if the Twinkies would be better off taking orders from a hallucinatory twelve year old after all.  Angels in the Outfield is just sappy Moneyball for the evangelicals, but when you compare it to the illogical practicum of real baseball, dying and rising from the dead a few days later doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

Notable Quotables (really, there are far too many I could list here):

– “Where’s the pickup?”
– “I traded it in.  Bike’s better for traveling.”

– “But there are angels in the outfield.  And in the infield.”
– “Yeah.  Nine of them.”

– “Wait a second.  The first word is ‘José?’  I thought it was-”
– “It’s José.  We know.”
– “Wow!  It’s about a Spanish guy!  Joooosé can you see…”

– “It’s nacho butt!”

– “Ladies and gentlemen, can we now say the Angels are on a winning streak?  Or are these last few games just a small blip on the screen of a terminally ill patient?”

– And of course, “It could happen!” thirty times over.




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