I sometimes read reviews after I watch a movie to see if others agree with my assessment. This time I read reviews just to see what others thought about it at all. Because, I was of two minds about the movie. And, sure enough, the reviews I read were split right down the middle...some liked its simplicity and its focus on baseball, others thought it was overly hokey and cliche. Both are right.
One of my complaints about some of the movies I've reviewed is that there isn't enough baseball. That's not the case here. Another complaint is that, such baseball as there is seems to have been written and choreographed by folks who have seen, oh, three games in their lives. Not the case here. There's lots of baseball and it's realistic. Rather than get out of an inning with two K's (like most films), the pitcher gets a grounder that's turned into a DP. Wonder of wonders! A baseball movie written by somebody who seems to know at least something about baseball! There's another interesting scene when the protagonist is told to hit the batter. He doesn't want to, fearing that "I'll kill the man". Even his mentor tells him to do it...that's the way the game is played. There are some lapses, not the least of which is the idea of a 41-year old ballplayer on a D level team. Not that I know much about how minor league teams were constructed 50 years ago, but that seems a stretch. But, overall, the baseball factor in this movie is high. Fans will like it for that.
What fans (and everybody else)might have trouble with is the high hoke factor. Roy Dean is nice. And spirited. And a real team player. So much so that you almost feel more of an affinity with the young ball players who make fun of him. He's impossibly nice...and spirited...and a team player. The scene where the 41-year old works up his nerve to ask the barmaid out is contrived. He's 41 for gosh sakes!
What fans might also have trouble with is a bit of "weird" factor. To go into too much detail would give important plot points away. Suffice it to say that the screenwriters didn't seem to be able to figure out a good way to bring the movie to its denoument (sp?)...so they came up with a way that's supposed to really, really tug at the heart strings (I think) but ends up having the viewer say, "Huh?"
William Russ is a bit over the top as the aging Roy Dean Bream, Glenn Plummer is very good as the young pitcher he mentors, Jeffrey Tambor does a good job as the unctuous team owner, and Noble Willingham is Wilford Brimley right from The Natural.
If you're into baseball movies, give this a viewing. But don't go out of your way.