2 1/2 Stars
To call any Burt Reynolds’ movie a ‘vanity project’ would be missing the point, that’s exactly what they are intended to be. At least here, Reynolds gets a chance to work with his favorite director, himself. The Man from Left Field is a TV-Movie that was shot primarily on the star’s large compound in Jupiter, Florida. This eager to please feature is an often charming little story about a mysterious man, who literally appears in left field, that coaches a team of misfits into a little league all-star squad. I think there was a longer version of the screenplay at one point, scenes feel alternately rushed and over-long, and the Reynolds’ character’s back story is oddly missing.
Jack (Reynolds) appears out of nowhere-a dark and mysterious stranger who wanders in from the outfield of a baseball diamond. He has no job, no name, no past and no place to live. He might look horrific, but for a team of kids from the wrong side of the tracks, he’s a dream come true. Left without a coach, the boys enlist the only person they can find-the “man from left field”. As Jack becomes a hero to the kids, many unanswered questions still surround him. Slowly, the puzzle of Jack’s life is pieced together by Nancy Lee (Reba McEntire), the beautiful mom of the team’s star pitcher.
Sufficiently jacked in the arms, but heavy in the gut, Reynolds’ looks like he spent time in the gym and steakhouse. There are two scenes in which our hero beats characters half his age, this is even harder to fathom due to the aging star’s obvious limited range of motion in fight sequences. A confrontation between himself and the abusive father of a player runs on and on, growing more embarrassing with each passing moment. The same for a flashback scene where Reynolds recalls past horrors in his life. These errors wouldn’t be such hindrances to the film if they hadn’t shortchanged the finale with the kids. The picture ends so abruptly that it feels like the producers cut it for the time allotted on its network slot.
The Man from Left Field could have benefited from more humor, there is some pretty heavy thematic elements that don’t easily weave with the saccharine relationship between Reynolds and McEntire. Tighter plotting would have elevated this modest movie into memorable entertainment. However, the star develops good chemistry with his child co-stars, and the baseball scenes are competently executed
Director: Burt Reynolds
Stars: Burt Reynolds, Reba McEntire, Daniel Greene