We Believe: The Movie: The Review

cubslogo1

By Paul Schmidt

     We Believe: The Movie is the story of the Chicago Cubs and in particular their 2008 season, but, as director John Scheinfeld said at the premiere of the movie on Friday, June 12th at the historic Chicago Theater in downtown Chicago, it was meant to be more, it was meant to be “a love letter to the city of Chicago.”

      And while Scheinfeld did a wonderful job retelling some of the more popular stories of Cub lore, it was in the relationship of the city to the team and its fans where the movie fell short.

      Scheinfeld did a wonderful job amassing talent for the movie, and accruing interviews, including Hugh Heffner, Billy Corgan, Bonnie Hunt and Bob Costas.  In fact, it was Costas himself who had one of the best lines of the movie, when talking about how he liked to refer to Chicago as the city of big shoulders.

      “I might be the only person that says that. Maybe one other person came up with it,” Costas joked, obviously referring to the Carl Sandberg poem that coined the phrase.

      The largely pro-Cub crowd laughed at many of the obvious triggers of the movie, and booed the two obvious villains (Bud Selig and Mayor Daley – a Sox fan), and largely reacted how you might expect Cub fans watching this movie to react.

      They cheered lustily for Lou Piniella. Kerry Wood and Derrek Lee drew maniacal cheers. Ryan Theriot and Ryan Dempster received (much deserved) tons of laughter.

      And, perhaps not surprisingly, Mark DeRosa’s first screen appearance nearly received a standing ovation.  The Cub love for DeRo hasn’t waned, as he now has apparently achieved folk hero status amongst the community.

     The history of the Cubs was presented fairly and well, with some film that I hadn’t personally seen before, a nice touch.  They even went into nice detail about the person I would consider the biggest Cubs fan of all time, folk singer Steve Goodman. His tale never fails to bring tears to my eyes and the delicate nature with which Scheinfeld told his story — aided by Gary Sinese’s stoic narration and Goodman’s widow’s heartfelt stories — was easily the highlight of the movie.

      The problem is that these moments were few and far between, and you could feel it in the movie. 

     One of the areas where the movie felt far short was as a portrait of the city.  The first half of the movie was chock full of Chicago’s history and how it became a hardworking city of immigrants, a melting pot of different nationalities and religions. As the movie went on, however, it became more of an outlet for all things Cubs than anything else.

     And that was perfectly fine, except that most die-hard Cub fans already know those stories, and the most interesting parts of the movie the ones detailing the rich history of the city, how it formed, and how that related to the popularity of the Cubs throughout history.

    Many of the other parts of the movie fell flat, as well. There were two recurring characters who had met at Wrigley Field and then got married, and they were so incredibly un-memorable that I’ve forgotten their names.  Scheinfeld continually went back to them and it became really annoying as time went on, because he seemingly was making this couple (and their two children) the poster children of your every day Cub fans.  Which is fine, if not somewhat insulting to all the fans that were there.

      I also found it problematic that the Scheinfeld, in writing the movie, chose to only mention the Chicago White Sox for  roughly 20 seconds. This is notable, at least in my mind, because so much of the history of the city, and Cubs history was shaped by the White Sox that I found it questionable from a film-making standpoint to not address the team that is located only a few miles away.

     There were several other fun things that happened throughout the evening. There was a nice pre-party that was really sparsely populated, even though the food spread was great and free drinks were better. 

     Ronnie “Woo-Woo” Vickers was in full regalia at the Theater (but NOT in the movie), and was very sober throughout the evening, and was also not “Wooing.”  For those who are interested, I asked Ronnie how his foot was, and he said, “It’s healing up really nice, I should be ready to go after the All-Star Break.”  He then struck a pose like he was stealing second base.  Unequivocally the highlight of my evening.

     All in all, I’d say it is a must view for any Cubs fans, but that anyone that was interested in the City of Chicago and thought the movie was must viewing would leave it disappointed.  The gold standard for Cubs documentaries still is HBO Sports’ fantastic piece “Wait ’til Next Year: The Saga of The Chicago Cubs.”

     2.5 out of 5 stars.