Let me start off by saying that if you enjoy feel-good movies featuring young children overcoming adversity, you will enjoy this movie. You can stop reading now and go watch the flick and have a great time. However, if you are looking for more than that, you probably will be disappointed with this remake. Disney had a tall order, bringing back a classic after forty years, and really needed to bring their A-Game if they hoped to even come close to what the 1951 version brought to the plate. Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful in their attempt.
In reading the credits, you would expect there to be some contention for the title. Glover, Danza, Lloyd and a young McConaughey should be enough star power to carry the film. Then you bring in quality support off the bench with Ben Johnson, Brenda Fricker and Jay Sanders, along with the comic relief out of the bullpen provided by Taylor Negron and Neal McDonough, and that should seal the deal. Finally, you double up on the cuteness factor and headline two orphans instead of just one little girl and finish it off with modern cinematic advancements (color film and CGI effects) and the odds of failing in the clutch should be non-existent. Nevertheless, somehow with everything going for it this version chokes at the plate and only hits a weak fly ball to centerfield compared to its predecessor.
Changing the team from the Pirates to the Angels was not a good move and put the film immediately in a hole at the plate. Yes, I understand why it was done - ease of shooting the film locally in L.A., promote the home-town Hollywood team, the Pirates were actually a team in recent playoff contention for the first time in 15 years and the irony of having real angels share the field with the baseball Angels - but it only added confusion to the plot when characters were trying to make sense of the situation because they weren't sure what variety of Angels the people were referencing.
The attempt of Danny Glover filling the cleats of Paul Douglas leaves much to be desired. Glover is more of a shouter and flailer and really doesn't honestly present a physical threat, even when he throws a punch. However, Douglas was a very imposing person and looked like he could wade into a bench-clearing brawl and still come out on the better end of the battle. Moreover, how the character was handled was also more convincing in Douglas' favor. The way that Clarence Brown (director of 1951 version) wrangled the sensitive aspect of 'Guffy' McGovern's constant swearing without offending the audience was absolutely brilliant and offered a realistic answer to a delicate problem. Disney just made the problem evaporate. Guffy's actual interaction with the Head Angel also offered more depth than having Glover's character of Knox constantly relying only on his young mascot for interpretations. Finally, the interaction with his veteran starter never really is explored like it is in the original piece and, since there is no direct Angel / Manager interaction, there is no way that Glover should have left him in for as long as he did in the final game (Glover's character never personally learned that the pitcher was going to die in the next few months).
The erasure of Janet Leigh's character and any love interest also subtracts from the overall formula. Jennifer Paige was almost as responsible for the transmutation of Guffy from a unbearable, raging hate-monster to that of a normal human being as the angels and their restrictions on his violent anti-social behaviors. Her removal from the cast changed the entire feel of the film from that of a romantic comedy with a sports background to nothing more than a feel-good slapstick farce.
Finally, the comparison of manager's antagonist of Wynn vs. Sanders is equal to that of a Major League Veteran vs. September call-up Rookie. Wynn was the Disney go-to guy when they needed a celluloid villain and he always brought a level of bad guy who was both hated and make you feel sympathetic for him at the same time. The level of antagonization that Wynn brought, both in person and in his position within the sports media, towards Guffy was monumental. Sanders' persona was nothing more than slightly irritating and played little to no part to the plot or outcome of the story.
All in all, the remake pales in comparison to the source material and doesn't do it justice in the least. The movie is shallow, goes for the cheap laugh and relies on CGI and an overload of star power to wow the audience with an illusion. There are plot holes aplenty and the emotional or religious connection is never fully realized. As I said in the opening paragraph, if you just want a feel-good flick, this one will be for you. If you truly want to see movie magic, look for the 1951 original instead.