Do you like baseball? More to the point- do you like the Yankees? If the answer is no than Henry and Me may not be the film for you. I wouldn’t say I’m a baseball fan but I don’t mind it on occasion and I appreciate baseball’s place in movie history. I’d say of all the supports baseball has produced the best movies although Hoosiers and Hoop Dreams are tough to beat.
Baseball has such a nostalgia and history attached to it that it produces a wide spectrum of movies- everything from comedies like A League of Their Own and Major League to tender sentimental gems like Field of Dreams and Pride of the Yankees. Recently baseball has taken a big hit and lost some of its luster with steroid scandals and star players getting suspended but the history and connection to great American cities is perfect for storytelling.
The animated film Henry and Me taps into that nostalgia big time and produces a pretty sweet, sappy but pleasant movie. Red Sox fans will hate it but I found it very appealing. It is about a boy named Jack who is fighting cancer (another pretty sad animated movie for 2014). He has started to get discouraged as he is sent to another surgery with IVs and surgeons all around him.
Jack is a die hard Yankees fan and we see brief glimpses of his room covered in Yankee memorabilia A nurse played by Cyndi Lauper gives Jack some medicine to knock him out and tells him he will have ‘great dreams’.
Next we see a man named Henry voiced by Richard Gere who has a magic Yankees pin that takes Jack on a train where at first he refuses to engage fearing he is not well enough.
Henry finally convinces Jack to believe in himself and the train stops in old Yankee stadium surrounded by corn. Here Jack meets a young Babe Ruth who gives him some advice for facing trials.
Then we get to a different version of Yankee park and Jack is put as pitcher for Mickey Mantle. He must strike him out but he doesn’t believe he can do it.
Then the story continues as Jack battles with the cancer and meets George Steinbrenner (voiced by his son Hank), Lefty Gomez (Luis Guzman) and Thurman Munson (Paul Simon).
Then there are a slew of former and currently living Yankees that do their own voice work including Reggie Jackson, Nick Swisher, Yogi Bearra, Hideki Matsui, Michael Kay and Joe Girardi to name a few (evidently they are now selling the film at Yankee’s concessions and I totally see why). It was neat to see all these great ballplayers in animation and doing their own vocals! And of course there is more to Henry than Jack first realizes.
It’s a short movie at only 68 minutes and it is pretty simple. Just a kid who gets a chance to meet the Yankees and be inspired by those interactions. It’s corny and sentimental but I liked it. The main point is to give hope to a kid with cancer and I teared up on a number of ocasions.
The hand drawn animation looks great. I wasn’t as thrilled with the CG backgrounds which looked odd with the hand drawn pasted over it but I’ve definitely seen worse in 2014. I liked the Cyndi Lauper music as it seemed to fit the overall tone quite well. Here’s one segment that is pretty emotional.
It is a bit of a downer for long sections with one segment actually sending Jack to Heaven to look around and see what it is like. He also gets frustrated and angry at his treatment which is understandable but tough to watch at the same time.
What can I say? I enjoyed it. It’s kind of like Fox and the Hound but with baseball instead of pets. Not a masterpiece but sweet and simple and easy to enjoy. If you like baseball and especially if you like the Yankees than it is the film for you.
Henry and Me would make a nice Sunday movie when you are looking for a very clean film with a nice inspirational message. Like I said they even go to Heaven in it (but it is not a Christian film- more of a baseball heaven (phrase I never thought I would write)).
If any of you get a chance to see it let me know what you think.
Overall Grade- C+
Now I have seen all but 2 of the animation films submitted to the Academy for consideration. The other 2, Cheatin and Giovanni’s Island are proving a challenge to find but doing my best. Cheatin doesn’t get into American theaters until April so I may go-ahead and do my overview of the year in animation before seeing it. If there is anything I am missing let me know and if there is an animated television show you would like me to review put it in the comments. I’ve heard great things about Gravity Falls and Over the Garden Wall but not sure where and how to watch them. Let me know!