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The Rookie review

Pitching the message that dreams-can-come-true, y'all, The Rookie is shot through with star-spangled sentiment, but its light touch and `true story' origins combine to make it feelgood fun even for schmaltz-phobic Brits.

Years after an injury forced his retirement from the minor leagues, teacher Jim Morris (Dennis Quaid) is settled in a Texan town, married to Lorri (Rachel Griffiths) and happy coaching the hopeless school team. In an attempt to instill some self-belief in his charges, Morris agrees that if they win the championship, he'll try out for the minors again.

So far, so Mighty Ducks. The difference here is the transformation of the team is little more than a warm up for the main event: `old timer' Morris stuffing his hand back in the pitcher's glove and seeing whether hecan still "bring the heat".

Bearing in mind the movie hinges on two questions - can Morris still pitch, and if he can, what then? - the fact that director John Lee Hancock and screenwriter Mike Rich keep things interesting for two-hours-plus is quite a feat. Crafting believable, likeable characters, they rarely resort to heavy-handed dramatic tactics - even the moments of triumph are handled with minimal air-punching cringeyness.

Quaid is excellent as a bloke facing a credible, difficult dilemma: does he believe in himself enough to gamble the security of his family on a childhood dream? Equally impressive are Brian Cox, who gives Morris' distant father a quiet dignity, and Griffiths as the wife who loves her husband but is concerned about the consequences of failure.

Get beyond the `baseball movie' stigma and this gently played story of an ordinary man's extraordinary second chance is actually quite a treat.

A resolutely upbeat tale of long-held fantasies becoming reality. Unlikely to hit a box-office home run this side of the Atlantic, but it doesn't deserve to strike out.

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