Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Perfect Game

The Film: The Perfect Game (2009)

The Actors: Cheech Marin (who also produced), Clifton Collins, Jr, Emilie DeRaven, Louis Gossett,Jr, Bruce McGill, Dave Koechner, Frances Fisher, and some newcomer kids.

The Dealio: 'Based on a true story', (stop me if you've heard this before and ever wondered how much of the base was actually true to the original story), this tiny film takes on the story of a group of poor kids from Monterrey, Mexico who unite behind the leadership of a dismissed 'towel boy' for the St. Louis Cardinal major league baseball team. Seeing as how this took place in the 1950's, you should expect some stereotypes: the bigoted, ugly Americans, the grief-stricken father who can't relate to his surviving, dreamer-son, the kindly, old groundskeeper who knows more than the real team leadership and- my favorite- the polarising support for the underdog. Whom everyone loves to love.
Let's say one thing about stereotypes: they are what they are because they keep turning up over and over again.
I have a confession to make: I really do not like sports very much. As in, at all. Don't follow them on TV, don't typically go to a game unless there is another agenda (example: everyone in the command/from work is going, and this venue is an alternative to a room in the back of a chain restaurant). However, it is extremely rare for me to miss a film or TV show which has, as its foundation, any sport. And I am not at all picky. It could be anything from football to karate to tennis to surfing to chess-playing. (That's a sport, right?) Doesn't matter; I'm so there. But, baseball-based movies have a special place in my heart. So, yo!? Make it good. This one is good. Sure, sure, sure, it has all those stereotypical touchstones I was talking about back in the beginning of this review. But it also has those elements I look forward to in this sort of film: disgraced person gets a second chance, heroes who sprang from a disadvantaged background, underdogs united, and, best of all: that final, hungered-for face off between David and Goliath. No slow-claps, though. Surprising, that.

The Grading Session: 4.18 pengies out of 5. They lose a smidge for showing an American flag with 50 stars, in 1957- Alaska and Hawaii became states in January and August of '59, boys and girls. And some of the young actors portraying the players were clearly rookies in the acting field. However, overall, there is an unquenchable feel of joy and commitment in putting this little-known story onto the big sceen. And that counts for a lot with me. There is no hint of going through the motions in this film. I appreciate this, especially given that scores of movies with much larger budgets choose to sleepwalk through the show and rely on promotion to sell it. Nope, not here. Here, it's all about the story.

Lessons Learned: Watching an engaging baseball movie is a way better activity, to me, than actually watching a ball game on TV. Also this: it is easy to see why baseball has gone international: it has an appeal that seems to dissolve borders, language constraints, biases and customs. Let's hear it for baseball...movies.

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