Monday, February 16, 2004
This 'Bronx Tale' a real buddy picture
By Chris Connelly Special to Page 2
If you happened to be living in Japan in 1987, you apparently could have gone to the movie theatre and seen a version of "Fatal Attraction" with its original ending: in which to the strains of Puccini, the psycho mistress Alex Forrest stabs herself with a knife that bears Michael Douglas' character's fingerprints ... dooming him, as it were, from beyond the grave.
It's not my money, but if I were Viacom chief Sumner Redstone, I might tell my Paramount and Blockbuster Video subsidiaries to re-release that cut of "Fatal Attraction" in my native city of Boston this coming weekend, with a program note attached: the role of Alex Forrest will be played by Aaron Boone.
Ever seen the original ending of "Fatal Attraction"?
Because from beyond the (likely) grave of Boone's Yankee career, the knife that cut into Boone's knee -- the one with the torn ACL -- doomed the Red Sox's pennant hopes for 2004 just as surely as Boone's Game 7 ALCS homer did for 2003 ... by opening up the lineup spot that brought Alex Rodriguez to New York City instead of the Hub.
In his star-making-and-breaking mien, George Steinbrenner always has seemed more like an old-fashioned movie mogul than the owner of a mere sports franchise. So it makes sense that his Yankees would get a slice of the life-imitating-art, "Wag The Dog" thang that has run riot through the sports world.
Remember when that Dale Davis-produced indie movie "Playas Ball" turned out to have a plot line that weirdly paralleled the Kobe Bryant rape case -- though it had been shot months earlier? When Bob Knight had his salad-bar confrontation with Texas Tech's chancellor, did you recall his cameo in the Adam Sandler movie "Anger Management"? And did you see where the good people of Albuquerque turned out to be such avid fans of "The Simpsons" that 57 percent of them voted in a newspaper poll to name their Triple-A team the Isotopes?
Still, in Hollywood terms, it would have been fun to imagine this coming Yankee season as a anti-matter version of "Miracle" -- with Joe Torre in the Herb Brooks role. Except he'd be coaching the prohibitive favorites instead of the underdogs, and instead of bugging the likes of Mike Eruzione, Mark Johnson, and Jim Craig, Joe's trying to get Gary Sheffield, Kenny Lofton and Kevin Brown to say what team they're playing for. (Which is hard, because to tell you the truth, they honestly can't remember.)
But now that project's in turnaround.
With their new arrival at third base, the 2004 Yankees would probably prefer to be a caper picture like "Ocean's Eleven," with Derek Jeter and A-Rod playing the Sinatra/Clooney and Dino/Brad roles -- the way they did in that "I Live for This" promo ad with Josh Beckett. They could even figure on Jason Giambi (remember him?) as a kind of Peter Lawford/Matt Damon first sidekick. Derek might have casting approval, but Jordana Brewster is probably a tech-avail, as they say in casting, for the female lead.
Sure, it sounds fairly bankable. Yet a good caper picture needs a bulletproof plot and a host of well-defined roles all the way down the lineup. That sound like the Yankees to you? Uh-uh.
How will these two "buddies" fare in the same infield?
Like it or not, the 2004 Yankees have become a Jeter-Rodriguez buddy movie. Certainly, there's an immediate upside. "Give the hero a best friend, and you like them both more," Hollywood producers have been known to say. And from Koufax and Drysdale's Dodgers ... to Schilling and Johnson's Diamondbacks, the baseball version of the buddy picture has not only produced avuncularity -- it also has produced World Series championships.
But whether it's on the field or on the screen, a buddy picture can be a dicier proposition than most. The films can be tough sells: think Robert DeNiro and Charles Grodin in the hilarious but undergrossing "Midnight Run." Combined star power can clog up a movie: think Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson in "The Missouri Breaks." What sinks most buddy pictures, though, is when the stars are too much alike, or conversely, when they're not positioned as true antagonists often enough.
And that could be the problem. For years, Jeter and A-Rod have been cut from the same many-threaded cloth -- the American League's Dreamiest Shortstops, with an off-the-field relationship that's ... well, who really knows? They're probably not best pals, but they're also not enemies ... not like DeNiro and Al Pacino in "Heat" ... or for that matter, Reggie Jackson and Thurman Munson.
Mere cordiality among similar types is not good for box office, as the back pages of any number of daily morning tabloids from New York are already well aware. After last season, when there was much talk in both the Yankee clubhouses of behind-the-scenes strife that never reached the public's ears, everyone will be waiting -- make that eager -- to see if Jeter and A-Rod can get along famously ... or feud infamously. If they do either, George has another hit on his hands.
If not ... well, there's always Glenn Close. Or as Yogi Berra once called her during his all-too-brief stint as a TV film critic, Glen Cove.
Chris Connelly is a regular contributor to Page 2.