The Babe (1992)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Biopic [feature], Sports Drama  |   Release Date - Apr 17, 1992 (USA)  |   Run Time - 115 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Derek Armstrong

Baseball fans -- especially followers of the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees -- should flock to a biopic about the sport's greatest player, widely known for leaving the Sox with a century-long curse and delivering an equivalent boost to the fortunes of the Yanks. If there's a baseball figure more steeped in history, accolades, and old wives' tales, may he step forward. So it's a shame that Arthur Hiller's film of Babe Ruth's career is so slight -- which may be traceable to the choices of the actor playing him. Physically, there's no doubt John Goodman was the man to step into the giant cleats of the Bambino, and his resumé promised a complex portrayal. But there's something wan about Goodman's innocent, savant-like performance, lacking in the full-blooded badness ascribed to Ruth. The Babe's opening lays the groundwork for such gleeful wickedness, as the young Ruth purposefully trips up an orphanage priest, but Goodman lets the mean streak run slack. Underplaying the athlete's vices into PG vanilla, Goodman creates a pitiable figure whose stunted emotional growth is linked to having grown up without a family. Whether this is true or not, as mapped out by a reserved craftsman like Hiller, it comes across as too simplistic. Much emphasis is made on Ruth's frustrated desire to manage, which also seems a curious place to focus. The Babe does boast a faithful period design and some effective re-creations of Ruth's signature moments. But as a film, it has too few ambitions toward a greatness to match that of its subject matter.