I am a Tom Selleck fan, a baseball fan and a nipponophile. You need to know these things before you read this review of Mr. Baseball because it is more gentle than any other review of this movie you will find on the Internet or anywhere else.
Mr. Baseball is one of those comedies that got a bums rush from the critics and never seemed to recover at the box office. Part of the problem with the movie from the perspective of a North American audience is that much of the comic elements center around the very real differences between Japanese and American culture. These differences and the resulting clash of cultures between a once great major league ball player, the team he is playing with and the people he meets in day to day life seem like over the top exaggerations to most viewers. The most bizarre thing about Mr. Baseball is that the situations are very believable to any westerner who has spent time in Japan.
Warren Cromartie once wrote "Any white man who wants to know what it is like to be black in America should spend a year living in Japan." Mr. Baseball plays off of this dynamic very well. The consummate American professional baseball player traded to the Japanese league (this could not actually happen) loses all semblance of his professionalism and his sense of being and self worth when he finds himself as the quintessential ugly American in a sport which differs significantly from the American game.
Ken Takakura is wonderful as the hardnosed skipper of the Dragons baseball team. Aya Takanashi is delectable and heart wrenching as Jack Elliot's (Tom Sellek) love interest and Dennis Haysbert is quietly perfect as our gentle guide to being "baka gaijin" in Japan.
This is not a laugh out loud funny movie - but it is often insightful and clever while doing its best to stay off of the preachy soapbox. The inevitable love story, the minor plot twists and the fairy tale ending (stolen by Mr. 3000) make this movie a great rainy day rental for anyone who is a Selleck fan, a nipponophile or just likes baseball movies.