Angels in the Outfield (1994)

 
Angels in the Outfield is a 1994 American family sports fantasy comedy-drama film that is a remake of the 1951 film of the same name. It stars Danny Glover, Tony Danza and Christopher Lloyd (the two latter actors previously worked together on Taxi), and features several future stars, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt (in the lead), Adrien Brody, Matthew McConaughey, and Neal McDonough. It spawned two direct-to-video sequels, Angels in the Endzone and Angels in the Infield. It was released less than a month before the 1994 MLB Baseball Strike, which forced the league to cancel the playoffs and the World Series.

Running time 102 minutes

Plot

Young foster child Roger Bomman and his friend, J.P., love to sneak into baseball games of the hopelessly dreadful California Angels.

Still in limited contact with his widowed father, Roger asks when they will be a family again. His father replies sarcastically, “I’d say when the Angels win the pennant.” Taking his father’s words literally, he prays for God to help the Angels win. After he prays, a star, unseen by him, twinkles in the sky.

Then, in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays which Roger and J.P. attend, he sees a group of angels led by Al helping the team. Although he can see them quite clearly, everyone else can only explain the seemingly impossible acts as freak occurrences.

Roger’s unique ability to see which players are receiving help from angels leads their skeptical manager, George Knox, to keep him around as a good luck charm and consultant, including ending the use of profanity as a nod to the original film. Due to the much needed help, the Angels start to win games and make a surprising second-half surge to the top of their division. Meanwhile, Roger’s father permanently gives up custody of him, believing it’s in Roger’s best interest.

As Roger laments his loss, J.P. accidentally reveals to antagonistic sportscaster Ranch Wilder that Roger has the ability to see angels, and that George has been winning through the advice Roger gave him. Hoping to destroy George’s career in baseball due to a long time mutual hatred between them, Ranch informs the press of this and their owner, Hank Murphy, threatens to relieve George of his management responsibilities. Roger comes clean to his caretaker Maggie Nelson about his special ability and at a press conference they and the entire team defend George in front of the press. Moved by their faith, Murphy allows him to remain as the Angels’ manager.

During the championship game none of the Angels show up to help the team. Later on, Al explains that championships must be played without help from the Angels and that he was there just checking on pitcher Mel Clark who will be one of them soon as he has been a chain smoker. Mel starts struggling, and is getting tired after throwing 159 pitches. When George goes out to the mound, everyone thinks he’s going in to take Mel out, but instead, George gives him some motivation, and with encouragement from Roger, the team, and finally, the entire stadium audience as well as Murphy and the other sportscasters.

The Angels ultimately win the final game of the regular season without the help of the Angels and clinch the division pennant over the rival Chicago White Sox, thanks to Mel. Murphy fires Ranch because of his denigration of the team. The film ends with George adopting Roger and J.P. as he wants to try to be a father. J.P. sees Al at the window and says, “I knew it could happen.” Al circles around the house and says “We’re always watching” and flying off into the stars, which re-enact a baseball game.

Cast

Danny Glover as George Knox (Angels Manager)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Roger Bomman
Brenda Fricker as Maggie Nelson (Foster Mom)
Tony Danza as Mel Clark (Angels Pitcher)
Christopher Lloyd as Al “The Boss” Angel
Ben Johnson as Hank Murphy (Angels Owner)
Jay O. Sanders as Ranch Wilder (Angels Sportscaster)
Milton Davis Jr. as J.P.
Taylor Negron as David Montagne (Angels team assistant)
Tony Longo as Triscuitt Messmer (Angels Catcher)
Neal McDonough as Whitt Bass (Angels Pitcher)
Stoney Jackson as Ray Mitchell (Angels Third Baseman)
Adrien Brody as Danny Hemmerling (Angels Player)
Tim Conlon as Wally (Angels Color Commentator)
Matthew McConaughey as Ben Williams (Angels Outfielder)
Israel Juarbe as Jose Martinez (Angels Second Baseman)
Albert Garcia as Pablo Garcia (Angels Shortstop)
Dermot Mulroney as Mr. Bomman (Roger’s Father)
Robert Clohessy as Frank Gates (Angels Pitcher)
Danny Walcoff as Marvin
O.B. Babbs as Mapel (Angels Player)
Mitchell Page as Abascal (Angels First Baseman)
Carney Lansford as Kit “Hit or Die” Kesey
William Dear as Blue Jays Manager
Mark Cole as Norton (Angel Outfielder)
Jeff Seaberg as Popcorn Vendor

Reception

The film has a rating of 35% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 20 reviews, with an average rating of 4.2/10.

Unlike the original, which focused on the Pittsburgh Pirates as the team in heavenly need, the film focuses on the California Angels, who did not exist when the original was released in 1951. Some scenes in it were shot at Wrigley Field (Los Angeles), home of the original Los Angeles Angels (PCL) of the Pacific Coast League. The Walt Disney Company, which distributed it, was a minority owner of the Angels at the time. The film did, however, premiere at the Pirates’ home stadium at the time, Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. The premiere would be the only reference to the Pirates, due to both teams playing in separate leagues (Angels in the American League, Pirates in the National League) and the film being released three years before the start of interleague play. Both teams would finally meet head-to-head for the first time in 2002 in Anaheim.

Box office

The film opened at #4 at the North American box office, making $8,916,463 USD in its opening weekend. It went on to gross $50.2 million at the box office domestically.

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