Burt Reynolds developed, directed, and stars in THE MAN FROM LEFT FIELD, a warm-hearted children's walk-through made for the cable market. This vanity outing is relatively seamless, if uninspired, and should appeal to pre-teens during its video shelf life.
Burt Reynolds is Jack, a mysterious loner who wanders onto a small-town Little League diamond. Gruff and grizzled, he just wants to sleep in the dugout, but star pitcher Beau (Kauwela Acocella) sees him as the answer to all his problems. The boy's team, the Indians, is in danger of being
disqualified unless an adult can be found to act as sponsor. With Jack as coach, the Indians are restored to the schedule and prepare to vie with their arch nemeses, the spoiled rich kids from nearby Silver Beach. Jack gets along well with the kids, broadening their horizons with matinees of Jane
Russell in THE OUTLAW, lecturing them on the finer points of knuckle balls and one-hop grounders. When he sets out to find work, with the kids guiding him through the process, it quickly becomes apparent that amnesia has robbed him of everything he once knew about himself, including whatever job
skills he might possess. But soon he's working for one of the kids' fathers, as a gardener and groundskeeper, and everything is fine.
Beau schemes to fix Jack up with his single mom, Nancy Lee (Reba McIntire), a baseball-crazy waitress at the local diner. His rival for Nancy's affections is the sadistic, alcoholic father of Bama (Adam Cronan), one of Beau's teammates; when he crosses the two of them, Jack reveals a violent
temper but manages to walk away. Meanwhile, the radio brings news of a psychopathic patient who has escaped from the nearby Chattahoochee Mental Institution. When Bama's father gets drunk and hits his son, Jack snaps and beats him silly.
Then one of the boys, J.C. (Billy Gardner III), disappears after the death of his beloved Uncle Charlie. A police manhunt fans out across the surrounding county, but Jack finds J.C. hiding in a tree overlooking the riverbank. When the limb breaks and dumps him in the drink, Jack has a moment of
truth, then dives in to the rescue. Now his memory returns: he's not the escaped psycho, but a Kansas City doctor who broke down and dropped out of sight after the death of a baby he was delivering. Jack returns to Kansas City, where his successful medical practice is still waiting for him, but
comes back to see his team through to victory over the snooty Silver Beach crew.
Outfitting THE BAD NEWS BEARS with a much darker backstory, the film strains credulity on more than one occasion. The kids are passably cute, the story is thoroughly predictable, and the direction is purely pedestrian. But Reynolds's persona is still a winning one, even if it's grown rather long
in the tooth. After his disappointing slide into sadistic crime dramas and embarrassments like COP AND A HALF, it's good to see his career buoyed by his "Evening Shade" network berth and the occasional low-key movie turn. (Violence, profanity.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: NR
- Review: Burt Reynolds developed, directed, and stars in THE MAN FROM LEFT FIELD, a warm-hearted children's walk-through made for the cable market. This vanity outing is relatively seamless, if uninspired, and should appeal to pre-teens during its video shelf life.… (more)