The Right Man for the Job

Timecode: 9:07 – 10:56

SPRADLING
Now we get this done, and I mean now, or no kidding, Kaffee, I’m gonna hang your boy from a fucking yardarm!

KAFFEE
A yardarm?
(calling out)
Sherby, does the Navy still hang people from yardarms?

SHERBY
I don’t think so.

KAFFEE
(to Spradling)
Dave, Sherby doesn’t think the Navy hangs people from yardarms anymore.

That was it. That was the moment. Less than 60 seconds into meeting Lieutenant Junior Grade Daniel Allistair Kaffee, 12-year-old me had taken the bait: hook, line, and sinker. I didn’t just like Kaffee, I wanted to be Kaffee¹.Kaffee intro shot

Did it help that we meet him hitting grounders to his softball team, and I’m unabashed baseball fanatic? Sure. Did it help that he was being played by the most charismatic man in the world?

Undoubtedly. But it was more than that. It was the perfect alchemy of situation, star power, and incredible writing & direction. Like a great baseball team, Kaffee was somehow even greater than the sum of his parts.

(*Note: The voice you hear over the clip is Rob Reiner’s from his DVD commentary for the film.)

In addition to being “a joy to work with”, Tom Cruise also happens to be the greatest movie star of his generation; and really, “any attempt to prove otherwise [would be] futile, ‘cause it just ain’t true.” While I made mention of it in my review of the AFGM trailer, it bears repeating: Cruise’s box office success over the years (especially when you consider he’s never played a Jedi, a wizard, or a superhero) is otherworldly². Adjusting for ticket price inflation, Cruise has headlined a whopping 24 films that have grossed more than $100 million at the box office³ (25 if you count Tropic Thunder). Put another way, if Cruise was an A Few Good Men quote, he’d surely be this one:

It’s strange to say, because technically the o.g. Kaffee (in the stage production) was this guy, but Cruise was born to play the “Lt. Junior Grade with nine months’ experience and a track record for plea bargaining”. This introductory scene lasts a grand total of 1 minute and 49 seconds, and in it, Cruise’s Kaffee flashes the quick wit, boyish charm, and unrivaled intellect that will make him such an exceptional lawyer…when he finally steps foot inside a courtroom.Kaffee oregano face

KAFFEE
It was oregano, Dave, it was ten dollars worth of oregano.

SPRADLING
Yeah, well your client thought it was marijuana.

KAFFEE
My client’s a moron, that’s not against the law.

But enough about Kaffee; we’ll be talking about him plenty in the weeks to come. It’s time we discussed the real star of this scene. That’s right, folks, I’m talking about Sherby⁴.

Sure, he may be a walking, talking baseball blooper reel, but you gotta give Sherby this: at least he’s apologetic about it. I mean, Jesus Christ, the guy makes Lupus from the Bad News Bears look like an MVP candidate.

For me, it always begs the question: how bereft of hand-eye coordination must the JAG Corps be that Kaffee has to turn to Sherby for help? (My personal theory: Sam’s wife made him quit the team when they had their baby, forcing Kaffee to scramble to find a 10th man.)

Regardless, that’s how they ended up with a lineup card that looked like this when they took on Bethesda Medical:

JAG Corps Starting Lineup
1. Richardson SS
2. Jenkins C
3. Kaffee LF*
4. Taylor LCF
5. Lester 3B
6. O’Brien RCF
7. Centrella P
8. Nicolaides 1B
9. Abrums RF
10. Sherby 2B*

I imagine the game recap pretty much wrote itself:

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere Jessep shouts,
But there is no joy for Kaffee — mighty Sherby has struck out.

-MPM

¹This was still true six years later: as part of questionnaire my senior year in high school, I listed my personal heroes as Kaffee and Alex P. Keaton.
²Consider this as close as I’ll come to making any Scientology jokes at his expense.
³Per Box Office Mojo.
Played by the incomparable Geoffrey Nauffts, who incidentally, was also in the greatest baseball movie of all-time (Field of Dreams), and currently writes on the hit show Nashville. Nauffts!

One thought on “The Right Man for the Job

  1. Pingback: The Six Degrees of Smilin’ | Michael Patrick Maloney

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