One minor league baseball player, two films featuring characters loosely based on his legend. As insane as this sounds, Steve "White Lightning" Dalkowski didn't have an illustrious career in the big leagues, appearing very briefly in the majors in a relief role, but he is considered the inspiration for both Nuke LaLoosh in 'Bull Durham' and Steve Nebraska in 'The Scout.' He apparently (or, more appropriately, supposedly) was as wild a man as he was a pitcher, and, who knows, maybe he lived life at the same speed he supposedly threw his almost unhittable pitches. He's graced two baseball cards (a 1963 four player Topps rookie card and a 2009 Opek specialty faux-vintage reproduction), but what no card can ever do is portray the true insanity of some of his box scores. Go on, look them up, they're worth the laugh. They may be more entertaining than 'The Scout,' even.
Albert Brooks plays Al Percolo, a slick tongued scout for the New York Yankees, whose prospects haven't worked out too well lately. After a particularly embarrassing episode, Percolo is banished to search for players in Mexico, where the game isn't exactly up to the standards he's used to. On this trip, though, he encounters an American player (Brendan Fraser as Steve Nebraska) who can do it all, hitting everything out of the park and pitching so hard the catcher can't stay on his feet. The problem is, to be cleared to play, Nebraska has to pass a psychological exam, and he's not quite up to the task. He's immature, arrogant, and has deep seeded issues that will have to be resolved if he's to start the first game of the upcoming World Series.
I liked 'The Scout' the first time I saw it oh so long ago, despite knowing that Nebraska is a bit overblown and ridiculous. It's just, the years have not been kind to this film, and its numerous plot holes and failures now hit you in the face like a 100+ MPH fastball. Ignoring the fact that Fraser's man-child act wears thin, as he's not all that great at selling his goofball character (due to trying far too hard), the problems with this film have to do with believability/plausibility, pace, and film structure. It takes some very lazy easy outs and major thematic issues are skirted with single lines of dialogue that are supposed to make it all better.
Dianne Wiest's role as the shrink (Dr. H Aaron) is just silly. She encounters Percolo and Nebraska, takes on their cause (albeit tentatively), and works on figuring out what's bothering the wunderkind. The problem is, she's apprehensive when Percolo just wants an in-and-out visit, yet Percolo doesn't call anyone else. No other shrink is ever mentioned. He just randomly picks one out of the phonebook, and done deal. We see Nebraska's first meeting with Dr. Aaron, and after that, nothing else. Yet, we're told Nebraska is going to treatment, and making progress. How do we know? An indefinite amount of time passes, and the film is amazingly ambiguous in this regard, and suddenly he's all better, or, at the very least, cleared to play. Am I the only one who thinks that in a story that centers around a character's mental instability, perhaps showing progress would be ideal or constructive to the narrative? We can't just plop a character down and then a few minutes later say he's fixed. It doesn't work that way.
Back to ambiguity...no timeline is ever established in this film, this is done for one reason: eligibility. There are rules about when a player has to be on a major league roster to be eligible for the playoffs. Since Nebraska is only promised to pitch this season if the Yanks reach the World Series, and everyone laughs at that thought, it must mean the season is pretty late, as in a team's chances are nearly shot. Yet, the team makes it, and we're instantly in the final showdown (with some unmentioned miracle turnaround that makes little sense, especially for a team to reach the World Series and then gamble an entire game on an unknown after actually getting there with existing chemistry and play quality). Are we to believe the Yankees set aside a roster spot based on the possibility, and that this date was before the deadline? Call me a sports nerd, but I don't buy it one bit.
Avoiding the technicalities, 'The Scout' fails for one other reason: lack of drama, and not just from avoiding the counseling sessions. Nebraska is sold as a god. He hits every ball for a home run, and pitches every ball at around 105 to 109 MPH (the current record since the invention of the radar gun is 105 MPH, which was set very recently by Aroldis Chapman of the Cincinnati Reds). There's no tension in watching a player go a perfect game in his debut on 81 pitches, all for strikes. That's not good. That's just stupid. There has been only one perfect game in World Series history, yet some joker makes it in his MLB debut, facing off against one of the two best teams for the year? Ridiculous. It's insulting to the awesome record Don Larsen set that may never be broken.
'The Scout' has the right intentions, but it jumps around instead of driving a straight line. It doesn't know whether it wants to be a comedy or a drama, and the two themes clash from scene to scene, making the film grow stagnant on numerous occasions. It also discounts the numerous players south of the border who have made it big by portraying Mexican baseball as being played by teams consisting of men, women, children, and goats, with churro stands on the third base line. No, really, it does. If you have no clue about baseball, it may be a fun enough film, but considering the primary audience for a film about baseball is baseball fans, this one is a misfire, with awkward character development, major gaps in logic, and a horribly rushed finale.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'The Scout' comes to Blu-ray on a Region A locked BD25 disc from Anchor Bay, taking over distribution for 20th Century Fox. The menu on this release is somewhat slow to react to commands.
The 1080p transfer afforded 'The Scout' is passable, barely, considering its status as a dumped title with no fanfare from any studio.
For the most part, the picture is sharp with detail, with loads and loads of facial features coming through clear as day. Colors are solid and bold, and contrast is spot on. That said, there are some minor concerns that add up. Dirt, scratches, and hair are easy to spot, and noise can spike something fierce. Textures are not consistent, going from believable to flat shot to shot, while grain can seem frozen on a few occasions. There are a few moments where edge enhancement looks egregious, and there are a couple shots of ballparks with players on them that look extremely low grade, like they were copied over from a VHS cassette.
Considering the age of the DVD, fans should be pleased, particularly at the lack of artifacts of any kind popping up, but compared to numerous films of the era, this disc doesn't come close.
The audio on 'The Scout' is presented with one flavor, a lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix.
What surprised me on this disc was the amount of rear activity. Mind you, it is far from constant, but for a comedy from the mid-'90's, there is much more ambiance and activity hitting all channels than you'd expect, and stadium scenes are properly loaded with noise. Sadly, simple effects like rain don't fill the room in the same way, so let's keep that praise in line. Dialogue can be a little brunt and forceful, not exactly matching the setting of the scenes they inhibit, but the spoken words are clear and simple enough to understand. Bass does not exist on this disc.
Much like the video, the audio is flawed but passable.
Though not advertised on the package, this disc does include the Theatrical Trailer (HD, 3 min) for the film.
'The Scout' is a guilty pleasure sports film, though it isn't one I can say I'm guilty of enjoying all that much. It just doesn't make much sense. Even if you suspend belief enough that a player can slug 4.000 (that means a home run every at bat) or post a 27.00 K/9IP ratio (meaning every batter faced is struck out), let alone both, the problems with the film skipping over what should be crucial sequences is unforgivable. If the film doesn't want to show a mentally perturbed player receiving psychiatric care, then it shouldn't make the requirement a key plot point. This Blu-ray disc is passable for what it is, with solid video and somewhat surprising audio. At bargain bin prices, this one may be worth a watch, but anything above ten bucks is a stretch on this release.