You ever see the movie The Scout? I’ll summarize it for you: Albert Brooks plays a major league baseball scout who discovers immaculately-named phenom Steve Nebraska (Brendan Fraser) playing in a tiny rural town in Mexico. Nebraska has a 100+ mph fastball and the ability to hit moonshot home runs seemingly on demand. Brooks’s character, Al Percolo, brings him to the United States, where his talent wows everyone but he faces issues related to his new fame and being a fish out of water. He eventually overcomes all of that to help his team win The Big Game, and Al learns some lessons about friendship and What Is Really Important in the process. The End.
Okay, now replace Brendan Fraser with a 600 lb. dinger-smashing Chinese circus gorilla named Ling Ling. That’s basically the plot of the 2013 Korean movie Mr. Go. Mr. Go is a good movie.
I’m sure you have a few questions. Please, fire away.
A DINGER-SMASHING CIRCUS GORILLA?
Yup, you read that right. Ling Ling and his 15-year-old trainer Wei Wei work for Wei Wei’s baseball-loving grandfather at China’s Ronhua Circus. Through a process that is never really explained, Ling Ling is taught how to understand language and smash pitched baseballs. It’s best to just go with it. Unfortunately, Ling Ling’s grandfather — who is repeatedly referred to as “a crazy old fart” in the English subtitles, possibly because his business plan involved bringing in a second gorilla (who turns out to be evil!) to pitch to Ling Ling — dies in an earthquake about five minutes into the movie. And he had a mountain of gambling debt at the time of his death, so Wei Wei is forced to take the show on the road to try to pay off some shady loan sharks and follow her dream of opening her own circus called Circus of the Sun.
Enter a super-agent named Sung, whose nickname is “The Bounty Hunter,” and who is infamous for taking popular players from Asia and selling them off to American teams. He proposes that Ling Ling sign a contract with a Korean baseball team called the Doosan Bears..
Are gorillas even allowed to play professional baseball?
Excellent question. The answer is yes, apparently, as we find out during some sort of sports roundtable show that starts with the host saying “It doesn’t say anywhere that a baseball team has to be made up of nine humans” and features the agent saying “Man is his own worst enemy. A trained animal is much safer than an irrational man.”
So is this where Ling Ling starts hitting home runs?
Boy howdy, is it ever. After Ling Ling — whose name has now been changed to Mr. Go, because this movie is goddamn incredible — smashes a pitch off the Jumbotron 450 feet away in his first at bat, we get a four-minute dinger montage set to, not joking, “Walk of Life” by Dire Straits. There are showboating no-look dingers…
… and dingers where he golfs the ball into the cosmos after the pitcher tries to walk him by rolling the ball to home plate…
… and dingers where he backhands the ball into the left field stands when the pitcher tries to throw behind him.
How many GIFs of gorillas hitting home runs do you have on your computer right now?
That’s not important. A lot. Let’s just say I have “a lot” of GIFs of gorillas hitting home runs.
Fair enough. Wait, what position does Mr. Go play? First base? I bet he plays first base.
Incorrect. Mr. Go only pinch hits. He comes in once a game, usually when the bases are loaded, and hits a home run almost every time. And the one time he didn’t hit the ball over the fence he just barreled around the bases steamrolling the other team’s players, and the catcher ran away instead of trying to tag him. Inside-the-park home run!
If you were to extrapolate his stats over a full American baseball season, factoring in his one strikeout and the fact that he only plays home games, that works out to a slash line of .988/.988/3.95 with 80 home runs and something hovering around 300 RBI. That’s pretty good.
It sure is! Wait, how did he strike out the one time? And why does he only play home games?
Funny story about that. One day Wei Wei was pouting in the agent’s luxury high-rise condominium (where she and Mr. Go live, obviously), and she decided not to travel with the team for the next game. The agent opted to try to handle Mr. Go himself. It did not go well.
The short version is that Mr. Go struck out and charged into the stands on a rampage, and the authorities were called in to try to neutralize him with helicopters and bazookas filled with nets. For this, he was forbidden to play away games.
Hold on. That’s it? That was the entire punishment?
And this actually brings us to my favorite part of the movie. The agent is so bummed out about negative public perception of Mr. Go potentially costing him a big contract commission down the line that he gets stupid drunk on beer and rice wine in his condo. WITH MR. GO. HE GETS DRUNK WITH THE GORILLA. AND GIVES THE GORILLA SPICY KIMCHI AS A PRACTICAL JOKE. AND THEY WAKE UP THE NEXT MORNING LIKE THIS.
We’ve all been there.
Anyway, after getting over his hangover (and kind of trying to shoot Mr. Go with a rifle for eating all his expensive house plants during their brief bender), the agent comes up with a plan to rehabilitate Mr. Go’s image. Rather than explain this plan to you by taking on the impossible task of stringing together the appropriate words and punctuation to do it justice, allow me to present this GIF devoid of further context.
HE’S WEARING A VEST!