'Henry & Me': Film Review

Henry & Me Film Still - H 2014

Henry & Me Film Still - H 2014

This heartwarming tale should gladden the hearts of young baseball fans and their nostalgic fathers

A cancer-stricken young boy learns life lessons from New York Yankee players past and present in this animated film

A cancer-stricken 11-year-old boy learns life lessons from the New York Yankees in Barrett Esposito’s animated film that basically serves as a promotional vehicle for the venerable baseball team. Featuring such legendary figures as Babe Ruth, Thurman Munson, Reggie Jackson and Yogi Berra as characters as well as numerous current Yankee ballplayers, Henry & Me is a heartwarming tale that should prove irresistible to young baseball fans. The film will be given limited NYC theatrical exposure before its release on DVD and digital formats on Sept. 9.

Richard Gere voices the role of Henry, a guardian angel who appears to young Jack (Austin Williams) as he’s being prepped for cancer surgery. He soon whisks the lad off on the subway to Yankee Stadium, replacing his chemo-induced bald pate with a full head of hair and his bare-butt-exposing hospital gown with spiffy new clothes.

After a quick detour in a flying car to a remote ball field where Jack gets batting lessons from an avuncular Babe Ruth (Chazz Palminteri), Jack is returned to Yankee Stadium — the old one, naturally — where, after getting some coaching from Lefty Gomez (Luis Guzman) he finds himself pitching to Mickey Mantle (voiced by the slugger’s son, David Mantle), whom he promptly strikes out.

Intercut with these fantastical sequences are scenes of Jack on the operating table, where he fights for his life as his worried parents (Joseph Gian, Lucie Arnaz) look on. It’s not much of a spoiler to reveal that he comes through with flying colors, with a slew of current Yankee players arriving shortly afterward for a visit. Conspicuous in his absence is Alex Rodriguez, whose voice role was cut from the film after he received his 162-game suspension from Major League Baseball.   

Although its animation is rudimentary at best, the film inspired by Ray Negron’s best-selling children’s books tells its simple tale with appealing warmth and humor. Although obviously designed to appeal to young boys, it’s something that their nostalgic, baseball-loving fathers will enjoy watching with them.

The hagiography concerning the legacy of the team is laid on way too thick — it’s not surprising that the DVD will be sold at Yankee Stadium home games — but that can be forgiven considering that a portion of the proceeds will be benefiting a wide array of charitable organizations.

The voice cast is stellar, including, besides those already mentioned, Danny Aiello as Jack’s doctor, Cyndi Lauper as a nurse (she also warbles “Time After Time” on the soundtrack) and Yankees chairman Hank Steinbrenner as his late father George Steinbrenner. Singer Paul Simon voices Thurman Munson, whose friendly warning to Jack that “You never know what tomorrow’s gonna bring” has the intended sad resonance.

Production company: Henry & Me Productions
Cast: Richard Gere, Chazz Palminteri, Austin Williams, Cyndi Lauper, Danny Aiello, Paul Simon, Lucie Arnaz, Joseph Gian, Luis Guzman
Director: Barrett Esposito
Screenwriter: David I. Stern
Producers: Joseph Avallone, Joe Castellano
Executive producers: John Franco, Armando Gutierrez, Ray Negron
Editor: Joe Castellano
Composer: Charles David Denler

No rating, 68 minutes