Bernie Mac plays a baseball-star version of his corrosive TV-show persona in “Mr. 3000,” a comedy that’s essentially an extended ad for ESPN. Ironically, though, the insertion of real-life media provides the film’s few laughs.
Mac stars as Stan Ross, an egotistical lefty slugger who abandoned the Milwaukee Brewers immediately after logging his 3000th hit — or so he thought.
Nine years later, as Stan is being considered for the Hall of Fame, officials discover a counting error and find that he’s three hits shy of the milestone, rendering irrelevant his Mr. 3000 sports bar, hair salon and pet store. (These are among the many sight gags that are only slightly funny in the movie from Charles Stone III, who previously directed the surprise hit “Drumline.”)
Similar to Clint Eastwood and the past-their-prime astronauts in “Space Cowboys,” Stan struggles to get back into shape using newfangled methods like Pilates and spin classes. This particularly tired montage takes place to the tune of the particularly tired “YMCA.”
Once he returns to the game, Stan clashes with new-school players, like Brewers stud T-Rex Pennebaker (Brian White), as well as the media — all over again.
Stuart Scott makes fun of him on “SportsCenter.” Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon actually agree on something as they rip him on “Pardon the Interruption.” And baseball guru Peter Gammons explains that sportswriters hated him then and hate him now because “he’s a jerk.”
Both ESPN and the film’s distributor are part of The Walt Disney Co., so it’s easy to see ulterior motives here. But the ESPN bits are the funniest parts of the movie, since the script from Eric Champnella, Keith Mitchell and Howard Michael Gould essentially relegates Mac to a one-note, unlikable role.
The comedian has made his name with an acerbic style on “The Bernie Mac Show” and in movies like “Ocean’s 11,” but there’s a playfulness beneath it, a sense that he’s just teasing with all that intimidation. Here, his character is purely selfish — until he has an abrupt change of heart.
The impetus for his transformation is an overt fling with ESPN reporter Mo Simmons (Angela Bassett), with whom he’d dallied in his heyday — one of the most unrealistic elements of a film that seems to pride itself on being rooted in reality, right down to the way players wear their socks.
There’s no way Mo could be romantically involved with Stan while continuing to report on his quest for 3,000 hits. Not only is it a glaring conflict of interest, but as a veteran journalist, Mo should know better. ESPN also should know better than to have one of its reporters — albeit a fictitious one — depicted in this fashion, especially considering how closely the cable sports network obviously worked with the filmmakers.
Anyway, enough of the tirade. This is supposed to be a feel-good movie, right?
Stan becomes a decent guy, for the first time in his life, at just the right moment — when the team starts struggling to be competitive with 11 games remaining in the season. And the guys in the clubhouse start to embrace him, too. He’s even offered a gig serving as a pitchman for Viagra (which Rafael Palmeiro of the Baltimore Orioles does in real life).
So when Stan asks in a voiceover at the movie’s conclusion, “Corny enough for you?” he probably doesn’t want to know the answer.