Family Feature Collection: Rookie of the Year/The Pagemaster/The Sandlot (3 Discs) (Widescreen, product details page

Family Feature Collection: Rookie of the Year/The Pagemaster/The Sandlot (3 Discs) (Widescreen,

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Given a fairly negative critical reception upon its initial release, The Pagemaster is actually a more-than-passable mixture of live action and animation with a fair number of high points. While the filmmakers may be presenting the message of their movie -- essentially, that reading is a good thing -- in a fairly obvious and banal manner, it does serve as a smooth way of introducing children to some of the exciting characters that can be found in classic literature. It also features excellent voice work, especially from Patrick Stewart and Whoopi Goldberg. Stewart seems to be enjoying himself a great deal, bringing an enthusiasm and energy to his work that is a change of pace from his usually more restrained approach. Goldberg is Goldberg, full of sass and vinegar and always ready with a quip. Macaulay Culkin is less annoying than in many of his other films, probably because his mannerisms are naturally minimized when the character becomes animated. On the downside, the story is rushed and not as compelling as it should be; much of it lacks the magic and sparkle that the situation demands and it has episodes rather than a real plot. Although most of the animation is just middling, there are a couple of impressive moments, such as the initial "meltdown" sequence in which Culkin becomes animated and the segment involving a dragon. Pagemaster's quality varies, but there's more than enough there to satisfy children. Craig Butler, All Movie Guide

Along with Little Big League and Angels in the Outfield, Rookie of the Year was one of a trio of sports fairytales that came out in 1993 and 1994 about the unlikely contributions of a 12-year-old boy in major league baseball. In this one, the kid is an actual player, able to throw devastating fastballs after a medical anomaly in which his broken arm heals as a kind of mousetrap missile launcher. When his arm cocks and snaps into motion, real superstars such as Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla are left helplessly whiffing at each pitch. Although this is sort of fun to see, the idea involves such a huge suspension of disbelief that viewers may only grudgingly give it. Still, actor Daniel Stern's directorial debut works a winning formula for young sports fans, especially those who practice striking out the league's top hitter to win the World Series against the picket fence in their backyard. Stern's major mistake in an otherwise even-keeled film is his own portrayal of the Cubs' klutzy and exhaustingly eccentric pitching coach. Stern is so bug-eyed and loose-limbed that his scenes are downright painful to watch. The other actors acquit themselves more tolerably, notably Gary Busey (also hamming it up, but not as much) as a grizzled, junkball-throwing veteran. Derek Armstrong, All Movie Guide

A summertime counterpart to the wintry A Christmas Story (1983), The Sandlot is one of those quaint coming-of-age movies that looks back on childhood follies and adventures through rose-colored glasses. Also like A Christmas Story, The Sandlot is blessed with its own peculiar group of stereotypical characters who seem to be taken from everyone's childhood, and each tall tale seems taller than the next, warped in the same cleverly childlike way. In particular, the black-and-white silent movie sequence where we are shown how The Beast got so big and mean is a home run. Anthony Reed, All Movie Guide