Everyone needs a hero to provide some hope in tough times. And during the Depression years of the 1930s, that larger-than-life figure for most folks is Babe Ruth. But as much as 10-year-old Yankee Irving idolizes the "Great Bambino," he's also crazy about his dad, Stanley, who works the graveyard shift cleaning up Yankee Stadium. One night while visiting the hallowed ballpark, Dad gives Yankee a surprise treat by taking him into the players' locker room and showing him the Holy Grail of bats: Babe's custom-made, 50-homers-a-year-hitting "Darlin'."
Turns out someone else has plans to see Darlin' up close and personal. Chicago Cubs general manager Mr. Cross is determined to break his club's losing cycle to the Yankees and assigns his notoriously cheating pitcher, Lefty Maginnis, to steal the bat. Because the prized piece of wood goes missing on Stanley's watch, however, he's the one who's blamed and fired.
Yankee is determined to make things right and sets out on a cross-country journey not only to retrieve the bat, but also to return it to its rightful owner—and save his dad's job. With the help of a talking baseball named Screwie and Darlin' herself (yes, she talks too), the big-hearted kid takes the chance of a lifetime to become a hero in his own right.
Chock-full of solid messages, Everyone's Hero states that just because you're the smallest, weakest or least talented doesn't mean you can't achieve big things. The key, says the film, is in perseverance, especially "when people tell you you can't do it." Despite always striking out at the plate, Yankee doesn't give up, having been taught at home to "just keep swinging"—illustrating the powerful influence of parents' encouraging words. His dad points out that even after losing a game the previous day, professional players always give it another try. His dad and his mom then shower him with admiration when he sticks it out and does the remarkable.
Indeed, Yankee receives a boost from several characters along his journey, including a trio of hobos who optimistically state, "There's always another game tomorrow. ... If Babe can do it, so can we." A professional player's daughter also helps Yankee when he's confronted by bullies, then saves him from the pursuing Lefty. Ballplayers assist the youngster with his batting stance while also giving him a ride to Chicago (where the final World Series game is played).
Darlin' and Screwie both thank Yankee for saving them and restoring their hope. They also remind him (and moviegoers) of how family trumps fame and fortune any day, pointing out that even the greatest sports stars (in this case, Babe) prefer a family's unconditional love over record-setting achievements. The Babe shows kindness to Yankee and lets him know that he has faith in him, even when others don't. Part of the movie's soundtrack preaches the Golden Rule.
Though not played up as much as the "you can do it" angle, possibly the movie's strongest message is in its preservation of dads as heroes. Here, fathers work hard to provide for their families and receive the untainted respect and admiration of their children, who want to be like them when they grow up.
Mr. Cross chalks up Babe Ruth's success at the plate to him having a "lucky voodoo charm"—namely, his bat. Legend has it that Darlin' was fashioned by monks on the mythological Mt. Olympus.
A few women at a fancy restaurant wear cleavage-revealing dresses. After seeing a picture of a girl's father who's also a professional ball player, Darlin' says, "He can pitch to me anytime." She also makes reference to a "cheeky cricket bat" who kept trying to sneak peaks at her.
Though the violence here remains cartoonish for the most part, it should be pointed out that there are several imitable and dangerous elements to it. Yankee climbs out his high-rise window and slides down the stairwell. Twice he jumps onto a moving vehicle. In fact, during an intense scene the youngster launches himself from one speeding train to another—twice. (He's being chased by Lefty, who after straddling the trains, ends up getting whacked by an oncoming sign.)
Lefty, who supplies almost all of the slapstick comedy as the dim-witted henchman, also gets run over by a train (offscreen), hit by a bat, beaned in the face by a fastball and shocked by electricity. On top of this, he falls off a roof, trips on a baseball and nearly chokes after accidentally swallowing a coin. To show his meanness, the filmmakers have him, among other things, slap a little girl to the ground.
Yankee is accosted by bullies, and is forced to engage them in a fierce apple-throwing battle. To get the bat to the Babe, he breaks a skybox window at the big game—using Screwie—and swings down to the stands from an extreme height. Mr. Cross wreaks havoc in his office as he acts out plays from the World Series.
Other Negative Elements
To do his good deed, Yankee sneaks out of the house and heads to the train station without his parents' knowledge. For them it's small comfort that he leaves a note to let them know where he is, especially since he's already gone when they get there.
Caught ogling Babe Ruth's bat, Yankee tells Lefty a "white lie."Yankee breaks wind while asleep, and another joke mentions how beans "can make themselves be heard." When Yankee hides Screwie in his underwear drawer, he tells the ball, "Don't worry, they're clean"—to which his leather friend replies, "Not anymore!" One of Lefty's secret pitches is a "booger ball," and upon one of his windups, we see gook covering the ball.
If anyone knew about being a hero, it was longtime actor and director Christopher Reeve. Both on- and offscreen the man was respected, admired, emulated and cherished. Likewise, his wife, Dana, not only stuck by her husband's side through his traumatic paralyzation, but also worked tirelessly for multiple charity causes. Both accomplished remarkable things despite overwhelming obstacles. Both were heroes.
Who better, then, to offer this story of true heroism for hope-starved moviegoers? The Reeves got onboard with the project—as a whole family, mind you (son Will voices a young character)—almost immediately after reading the story. Until both of their untimely deaths, Christopher directed while Dana served as executive producer.
It's easy to see why the Reeves were pulled toward this charming tale of a 10-year-old's cross-country adventure that becomes more about life than baseball. Not counting the misbehavior (running away from home!) mostly played off as slapstick, it's got great heart, cute animation and pristine messages. And though the laughs don't come as often or as hard as they do in the likes of Cars and Over the Hedge, the final 20 minutes of Everyone's Hero make up for what's missing with tenderness. As one character jokes, "Oh brother, you could pour this stuff on pancakes." Yep, you could. But every now and then, when told the right way, it's nice to have a serving of pure sweetness.