THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Dennis Quaid inspires a high school baseball team in Walt Disney Pictures' The Rookie
In The Rookie, Dennis Quaid plays Jim Morris, a Texas high school teacher and baseball coach who dreamed of playing pro ball before an injury sidelined him. His team starts off having yet another losing season, causing Morris to wonder if it might be time to move on to a bigger, better school. When the teenage players discover that their coach is still able to throw a ball at over 90 MPH, they make him a deal: if they achieve their dream by winning the district championship, he'll have to follow his dream by trying out for a major league team. To everyone's surprise, they win and he does try out, becoming the oldest rookie in the history of pro baseball. This would make a pretty unbelievable story except for the fact that it is true. Director John Lee Hancock (who wrote several Clint Eastwood films) wisely keeps the focus less on baseball and more on the conflict between Morris's desire to play and his heartfelt obligations to his wife (Rachel Griffiths from "Six Feet Under") and young son. There are more than a few sports-movie cliches here (the disapproving father who shows up to offer praise during the big game being just one of them), but Hancock's emphasis on the human element makes this a real feel-good movie. Quaid has always been a talented actor, if somewhat unfairly maligned for appearing in some bad movies. He has a lot in common with the central character in The Rookie; both get a second chance for a comeback in middle age, and both perform admirably.

( out of four)

The Rookie is rated G. The running time is 2 hours and 9 minutes.

Heather Juergensen and Jennifer Westfeldt take a step toward romance in the comedy Kissing Jessica Stein
Kissing Jessica Stein is about two women who are not lesbians but have a lesbian affair anyway. Jennifer Westfeldt plays Jessica, a New York magazine proofreader who has been involved with a long series of Mr. Wrongs. When she stumbles upon a women-seeking-women personal ad, Jessica is intrigued by what she hears and responds. This is how she meets Helen (Heather Juergensen), a free-spirited type who wants to try everything and decides that lesbianism is her next experience. To both their surprise, they hit it off. Helen is initially more into it than Jessica, who spends too much time dissecting the different ways they can have sex. As time goes on, the bond between the women grows closer and a full-fledged relationship blossoms. Interestingly, Kissing Jessica Stein is not a political film about homosexuality; it doesn't send any particular message or have any overt agenda. In fact, while it will probably be classified under the "Gay Cinema" genre that has developed over the past few years, the movie is more about human nature than anything. Jessica, having been burned by men over and over, finds that she kind of enjoys the attentiveness of a woman with whom she has things in common. What she so desperately wants and needs is emotional intimacy, not physical intimacy. That she happens to find this in another woman is almost secondary. The performances are quite good, and the screenplay (written by the stars) is full of observant moments and sharp one-liners. Most intriguing of all is the ending, which perfectly dissects Jessica and Helen's relationship in under five minutes. Kissing Jessica Stein isn't the best movie ever made about its subject, but it's a clever and entertaining one that's worth seeking out.

( out of four)

Kissing Jessica Stein is rated R for sexual content and language. The running time is 1 hour and 34 minutes.

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