When high-school baseball coach Jim Morris (Dennis Quaid) was looking for a way to inspire his perennially losing team to win, he decided to issue a challenge they couldn't refuse. If they made it to the district playoffs, he would try out for a major-league baseball team. Fortunately for Morris, his team fulfilled their part of the bargain, and he went to the tryout in which his fast ball was clocked at 98 mph! It wasn't long before Jim found himself pitching for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays as a 35-year-old rookie. The best part of the story is that it actually happened in 1999.
Based on the events that led Jim Morris into the major leagues, the film itself is a heartwarming tale about never letting your dreams die, and if the opportunity to live out your dream presents itself, take it. Morris only pitched for two brief seasons, but his story should be an inspiration to us all.
The movie is presented with a high-bitrate AVC encode in the theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Fine detail is generally very good throughout, but there are moments when some softness creeps in, specifically on some long shots. Colors are vibrant and look especially vivid in the climactic stadium scene—the primary colors worn by people in the crowd really jump off of the screen. The black levels vary a bit from excellent to average, but overall, this 1080p presentation never lets you forget that you are watching high definition.
The 5.1-channel PCM soundtrack doesn't disappoint, either. The mix isn't very aggressive and is mostly presented across the front soundstage. Clarity is excellent, and it's highlighted by a snappy country-western score. The surround channels are employed for ambience only, but they come alive when Morris makes his major-league debut. Dialog intelligibility is never an issue, and although the mix is far from reference-quality, it serves its purpose well in the storytelling.
Ported over from the DVD release, the bonus features are all presented in standard definition on the BD50 disc. Leading off is an audio commentary with director John Lee Hancock and actor Dennis Quaid. Batting second are eight deleted scenes with director's introductions. Third up is "Spring Trainer: Baseball Tips from the Pros," a short featurette on the baseball aspects of the film. And batting clean up is the best feature of the bunch, "The Inspirational Story of Jim Morris," a 25-minute documentary about the real Jim Morris with actual footage of his major-league debut and a look at his life story.
Although it's not a "bonus feature" in the classic sense, Disney has included a coupon for a $10 rebate to anyone who already owns the DVD of this movie—send in the proof-of purchase tab from the DVD and Blu-ray, and Disney will send you a check for $10. I think this is a great idea to encourage consumers to adopt Blu-ray. Hopefully, other studios will follow suit with this type of promotion.
The Rookie is an excellent family film and gets my highest recommendation for anyone with young kids. There is nothing offensive in this movie and I applaud its G rating. The presentation on Blu-ray is very good, and fans of the film won't be disappointed in the upgrade from DVD, which gets you a $10 rebate to boot.
Film: 9 out of 10
Picture: 9 out of 10
Sound: 8 out of 10
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