A cartoon cutie set in the 1930s, it tells of a New York kid named Yankee Irving (voice: Jake T. Austin). He worships the game and its beefy god, Babe Ruth (Brian Dennehy). But in sandlot or street ball, for all his oomph, Yankee is a squirt short of juice. Still, his dad is on the janitorial staff at Yankee Stadium, and the boy gets a sneak visit to the locker room after hours. He gazes upon Darlin', the Babe's smokin' bat. This mighty stick was "carved by monks from the horn of a unicorn," but Babe later confides that he requires no mythic help.
The Chicago Cubs are the villains. The nasty Chicago pitcher Lefty (voiced by William H. Macy) steals the bat, Yankee gets blamed and the boy sets off by train and pluck power to retrieve it so Ruth can salvage the tight last game of the World Series (in fact, the Yanks crushed the Cubs in the 1932 showdown).
The kid also has a lippy, wise-off ball named Screwie (Rob Reiner), who dreams of being slammed into the far stands by the Bambino (a term not used, though Sultan of Swat is). The movie has real affection for the era, the game and New York, even if old Penn Station looks somewhat merged with Grand Central, and "Loser!" was not a favored kid retort of the 1930s, and Darlin' wants a chic coffee drink that smacks of Starbucks 2006.
Darlin' is a very blond bat but speaks the patented sass of Whoopi Goldberg, implying some covert integration of the majors way before Jackie Robinson. The animators, with their slick but pleasingly retro computer style, even nod a sweet homage to the now-gone Negro Leagues.
There are some weak modern songs, but "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" is played with the end credits. The humor and action should please kids from 5 to 10, while adults won't need to squirm. If not a homer, "Everyone's Hero" is a high pop fly.
(R.I.P. P.S.: The movie is dedicated to Christopher and Dana Reeve. The former Superman was set to direct, before his death in 2004, and gets a shared production credit. His wife, Dana, who died March 6, voices the boy's mom.)
A 20th Century Fox release. Directors: Colin Brady, Christopher Reeve, Dan St. Pierre. Writers: Howard Jonas, Robert Kurtz, Jeff Hand. Voice cast: Jake T. Austin, Whoopi Goldberg, Brian Dennehy, William H. Macy, Mandy Patinkin, Rob Reiner, Dana Reeve. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes. Rated G. 2 1/2 stars.