Growing up, there were three baseball movies that defined the 90s: The Sandlot, Rookie of the Year, and Angels in the Outfield. While The Sandlot is a classic film about a neighborhood coming together for the love of the game, and Rookie of the Year isn’t exactly the most plausible story, Angels in the Outfield takes the "this sh*t is so sad" cake. It isn't an uplifting story about the power of prayer and a community coming together for a greater cause; it's really a story about a boy desperate to win the attention and love of his father who knowingly put him in the foster system because he had more important things to do than take responsibility for his child. Honestly, that's an extremely f*cked up situation to begin with, and what's even more f*cked up is that some writer thought that it'd be a good premise for a children's movie.
All right, we begin with Roger (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and his foster brother, J.P. (Milton Davis), as they sneak in to a restricted area at the Anaheim Angels’ stadium to watch a baseball game because they're either A.) Gearing up early for a life of crime, or B.) Their foster mother really doesn't keep track of what they're doing. Seriously, these kids are like, what, less than ten years old, and are allowed to just run amok through the streets of Anaheim? Oh, and neither of them have to wear helmets when they ride their bikes through said streets. This foster mother chick, Maggie (Brenda Fricker), is up for the Parenting of the Year Award along with Lindsay Lohan's parents in The Parent Trap.
Anyway, Roger has to go to a court hearing, so he and J.P. have to miss the Angels game. In said court hearing, Roger's dad (Dermot Mulroney) says he'll come back and adopt him "when the Angels win the pennant," which at first sounds like some hopeful father-son-baseball-bonding thing, but NO, it's not. This dude knows that the Angels are in last place, and basically haven't won a game all season, so he promises this little kid that the ONLY way he'll ever take him back is if the impossible happens—AKA, the beginning of many empty promises and broken dreams for little Roger. We can all see through that bullsh*t, but Roger can't. He's just a boy. He can't understand that his dad is basically saying he will never, ever, be in his life and that he's putting all of his paternal eggs in a nonexistent basket.
So what does Roger do? He *prays* that the Angels will win the pennant because all he wants is to be with his biological father. Out of ALL the little children who pray, the head angel, Al (Christopher Lloyd) decides that Roger's case is extremely special and wants to help him out.
All of a sudden, Roger can see angels. This is like the children's version of Field of Dreams. He sees dead people. And not just any kind of dead people—angels that want to help the Angels so this kid can have a damn father for once in his life. Everyone's trying to make Roger's dreams come true, but what about J.P.?
Roger and J.P. go from sneaking in to baseball games to sitting right next to the dugout on the first base line because these adults take a ten-year-old's word that he can see spirits that are going to help them win. Again, the adults in these movies are out of their damn minds.
Why isn't anyone questioning the fact that, all of a sudden, the Angels’ coach (Danny Glover) is parading around with these two kids, giving them every free merch item he can get his hands on, and letting them chill in a locker room with grown men? Boundaries, man, boundaries.
AND THEN! When the coach is going to give the kids a ride home, we find out J.P. won't get into a car because he used to live in one with his mom before he was in foster care. Talk about a goddamn sad truth bomb. Roger even says, "He used to sleep in the front seat curled up like a cat." If that doesn't paint the most depressing childhood picture ever for you then I don't know what will.
Fast-forward to the fact that none of the players are questioning how all of a sudden they've acquired the most insane luck as well as talent basically overnight. And why doesn't anyone question what the hell was going on during the game? You know, when the ball basically stops in mid air while the Angels’ worst player is batting? And then the other team makes what, like, 37 errors on that play?
Side note: I think the most underrated line in this movie is when J.P. and Roger ask their new assistant, David, to go get them coffee. David, with very little hesitation, says, "You drink coffee? How do you take it?" Roger responds, "In cups."
Anyway, after more disappointing court dates for Roger, the coach becomes increasingly close with the kids. Which is fine, I guess, but Maggie just kind of lets them do whatever they want and allows a grown-ass man who is basically a stranger to hang around Roger and J.P. and spoil them with gifts and sh*t just so he can use them to help his team win a division pennant.
When the Angels finally get to the championship game, Al informs Roger that the angels can't help anymore because the team has to win on their own. Miraculously, the team can now play well without the help of dead people with wings—shocking, I know.
Despite knowing that the angels aren't there anymore, Roger tricks an ENTIRE stadium into thinking there are in fact, angels on the field. Awww! Thirty thousand people seemingly come together to BELIEVE and it's heartwarming and that is enough to make the Angels win the pennant.
So the Angels win and that means good news for Roger, right? WRONG. Roger's dad is still a deadbeat father and won't adopt him; he's just like, "Byeee." So who steps in? None other than the coach, who also adopts J.P. and everyone's like "Awww!"
Yeah, yeah, the kids get the family they've always wanted and the coach apparently has a change of heart about them. They've taught him…something. They all live happily ever after.
While the movie has a happy ending, we can't exactly forget about the fact that the film isn't exactly about baseball and community—it's about how f*cked up the foster care system is and how these two children were unwanted until one of them acquired a gift (seeing angels) that could help a disgruntled, unhappy old man win the American League division pennant—Not even the World Series!—in baseball.
Another day, another children's movie that will f*ck you up when you really think about it.
BONUS: a College Humor parody of an Angels in the Outfield ESPN documentary.