Having been in the midst of directing "Everyone's Hero" at the time of his death in 2004, it's exceedingly clear why Christopher Reeve was drawn to the project. An animated family fable about overcoming adversity, the movie wants to make the point that, no matter a person's age, size, handicap, etc., anything is possible as long as he or she wants it bad enough. It's a noble thought (if unrealistic), and sends a positive message to the small fries in the audience. Unfortunately, no one else need apply. "Everyone's Hero" means well, but it's as bland as a stale slice of dry white bread.
Set in a fantasyland version of Depression-era America in 1932, where inanimate objects hop around and talk, bobblehead dolls exist, and the Negro Baseball League stereotypically enjoy modern-day rap stylings while riding around on their tour bus, 10-year-old Brooklynite Yankee Irving (voiced by Jake T. Austin) can't catch a break with the other baseball-playing neighborhood kids. Yankee loves the sporthis father (Mandy Patinkin) is a janitor at Yankee Stadium and his favorite player is Babe Ruthbut he doesn't seem to be any good at it himself. When Babe Ruth's beloved bat is stolen only days before the World Series against the Chicago Cubs, Yankee strongly suspects disgruntled ex-baseball player Lefty (William H. Macy) as the thief. With a new friend, the depressed talking foul ball Screwie (Rob Reiner), by his side, Yankee runs away from home and sets off across the country in search of The Babe's feisty bat, nicknamed Darlin' (Whoopi Goldberg). Getting Darlin' back from Lefty's clutches, however, turns out to only be half the battle.
Directed by Christopher Reeve, Colin Brady and Dan St. Pierre, "Everyone's Hero" is a quaint, mostly inoffensive little kid pic that probably would have seemed better thirty years ago. Now that it's the twenty-first century, the film appears as if it could have been made in 1976 and been on the shelf ever since. The only give-away that this isn't the case is the low-key but pleasing computer animation. Regardless of its antiquated nature and lame attempts at comedy, a vast suspension of disbelief is necessary in watching "Everyone's Hero." Yes, the film is an animated movie to begin with, and yes, two major characters are a bickering baseball and bat (the latter voiced in an adorable southern accent by Whoopi Goldberg), but the movie still throws almost all chances for historical accuracy out the window. In the world Yankee Irving lives in, he can run away from home on a dime and not even be reprimanded when his parents catch up with him. He can happily ride with the Negro Baseball League on their bus, with one of the players being the father of newfound friend Marti (Raven-Symone). The owner of the Chicago Cubs (Robin Williams) has begun obsessively collecting bobblehead dolls of Babe Ruth. And, when Yankee finally makes it onto the field during the World Series, Babe Ruth's bat firmly in his hands, he is allowed to become a player for one inning and bat for the team. By this point, Toto, we sure aren't in Kansas anymore.
The voice performances from an ensemble of stars are amicable, but subdued. Jake T. Austin (2006's "The Ant Bully
") is precocious without being cloying as the determined Yankee Irving. Rob Reiner (2003's "Alex & Emma
") is the baseball, oddly named Screwie, who during one early scene crawls underneath the bed covers at the same time Yankee farts, and asks if how long he has been playing the trombone. William H. Macy (2005's "Thank You for Smoking
") is wasted as forgettable main villain Lefty. Whoopi Goldberg (2001's "Rat Race
") has fun with the limited restrictions of playing a baseball bat. And the late Dana Reeve, who executive-produced with husband Christopher, voices Yankee's patient mother. Unintentional and politically incorrect though it may be to say, there is a certain creepiness in listening to the voice of a woman we know has since passed on, playing a character who is mother to a wide-eyed young son.
"Everyone's Hero" is well-meaning pablum, so saccharine that even a character comments in one scene about how syrupy it all is. With the exception of a diverting high-speed train chase and a few shots of Yankee getting a taste of his surrounding Americana landscape during his travels, the film is a chore to sit through for adult audiences. Directors Christopher Reeve, Colin Brady and Dan St. Pierre very obviously have single-digit viewers and baseball fans in mind. For them, the film may entertain, but there is no reason to seek out on the big screen what is more suited for the small. In all honesty, were it not for Reeve's legacy connected so strongly to its creation, "Everyone's Hero" would be instantly forgettable.