Mr. 3000

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I write a weekly column called “Snide Remarks.” It is supposed to be funny. The way I usually write it is, on the first draft, I’ll just say whatever I have to say in whatever words come to mind. This usually isn’t very funny. So on the second draft, I pause after each sentence I’ve written and see if there’s some way of rephrasing it, or something I can add, that would inject some humor. First draft gets the structure down, second draft puts the funny in.

“Mr. 3000” looks like it was the first draft. They came up with a good idea for a comedy and wrote all the dialogue and action necessary to tell the story, but forgot to go back through and make it funny. How embarrassing for them, to see the film in theaters and realize, “Oh, crap, we weren’t done, were we?” Once I accidentally submitted a review that still had blank parentheses (______) where I meant to go back and put in an actor’s name, and it made it into the paper that way. So I know how the “Mr. 3000” writers must feel.

Bernie Mac plays Stan Ross, a major league baseball player who retired the day he got his 3,000th hit. He was tired of the game and figured 3,000 would be a high enough record to get him into the Hall of Fame, which was all he really wanted.

Ten years later, while resting on his laurels and governing a series of “Mr. 3000”-themed businesses in his native Milwaukee, he still isn’t in the Hall of Fame, and he’s bitter about it. Seems he underestimated the role “character” plays in the voting, and Stan was a first-class jerk before he retired. (Well, since then, too, but it doesn’t matter as much now.)

And now he has more problems: Three of his 3,000 hits didn’t happen. There was a miscount. He only has 2,997, and that’s not nearly as impressive a number. And sure enough, when the Hall of Fame committee meets after this revelation is made, he gets even fewer votes than before. He needs those three hits. Obviously, he’ll have to come out of retirement and get them.

So it’s a perfectly decent idea for a light comedy, as you can see, and Bernie Mac has charisma to spare. Part of the film’s trouble, though, is in not letting him be himself. Stan Ross is such a self-centered creep prior to his inevitable change of heart that we can’t like him. He’s still not a team player, he berates his new teammates constantly, and he complains about everything like a whiny schoolboy, and not in a way that’s funny or curmudgeonly. A Bernie Mac we can’t like is a Bernie Mac we can’t watch.

The film is the epitome of blandness. It was directed by Charles Stone III, who directed 2002’s “Drumline,” a film I did not see but which I understand to have been full of energy and charm. “Mr. 3000” is quite the opposite. It belongs to that rare category of film that I hesitate to call “bad” because that implies it was trying to be good, and I don’t think it was. It’s not that the jokes aren’t funny. It’s that they aren’t THERE.

C (1 hr., 44 min.; PG-13, plenty of swearing, some vulgarity and sexuality.)

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