October 04, 1991 at 04:00 AM EDT

Babe Ruth

TV Show
Current Status
In Season
Stephen Lang, Neal McDonough
Biopic, Sports, Drama
We gave it a D

”You know, I can change a game with one swing of the bat — that’s why I’m a real American hero.” So says Babe Ruth in this tediously simpleminded TV movie about the Sultan of Swat, which makes it onto the small screen before an upcoming theatrical film about Ruth starring Roseanne‘s John Goodman. Ruth is played by Stephen Lang, a talented stage actor best known on TV for his role in Crime Story. But the chance to play a colorful baseball legend like Ruth must have blinded Lang to the fact that the script, by Michael de Guzman (Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Caroline?), is little more than a series of chest-puffing speeches combined with a standard rise- and-fall plot: The New York Yankees star becomes the biggest thing in 1920s baseball — literally and figuratively. But he’s too fond, as he says, of ”wine, women, and more women.” His talent fades, and the aging Bambino is left to pine for the times when ”there wasn’t nothin’ I couldn’t do.”

Under the direction of Mark Tinker (St. Elsewhere), Lang appears in makeup that from some angles makes him appear frighteningly like Joe Piscopo. Still, Lang’s beefy performance overshadows those of costars Bruce Weitz (Anything But Love, Hill Street Blues) as Yankee manager Miller Huggins and Lisa Zane (Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare) as Ruth’s second wife, Claire. (Oh, yes: noted gambler Pete Rose makes a cameo appearance as his hero, Ty Cobb. How ill at ease is Pete? He looks like he just stepped into shoes filled with tobacco juice.)

”For 22 years,” says Claire to the declining Ruth, ”you have been doing things that other people only dream about.” For two hours, the filmmakers do things other people sleep through. D

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