Clichés Notwithstanding, The Perfect Game is Still a Hit
- Friday, April 16, 2010
Release Date: April 16, 2010 (limited)
Rating: PG (for some thematic elements)
Genre: Drama, Sports, Family, True Story
Run Time: 118 min.
Director: William Dear
Actors: Clifton Collins Jr., Cheech Marin, Moises Arias, Jake T. Austin, Gabriel Morales, Ryan Ochoa, Emilie de Ravin, Patricia Manterola, Carlos Padilla, Jansen Panettiere, Mario Quinonez Jr.
In the 1989 sports fantasy Field of Dreams, baseball was merely a vehicle for a father and a son to reconcile and finally play catch.
Four years later in The Sandlot, lacing up their cleats and hitting a few balls was merely a reminder that a group of neighborhood pals were more than a team, but the best buddies in the whole world.
And now with the release of The Perfect Game, America's pastime is simply the gateway to a heartwarming, beat-the-odds story of a bunch of underdogs triumphing over adversity at home—and in public. Basically, the game itself is certainly a character of sorts, but not exactly the driving force behind the inspiration.
Based on a true story, The Perfect Game isn't exactly a revelation in the narrative department. Anyone who's seen a good sports movie before knows exactly where the story is going, and that victory will come right down to the last inning—and preferably long after winning doesn't seem possible. But what eventually elevates The Perfect Game from your standard-issue baseball flick are its underlying themes and winning performances from the leads.
Set in 1957, the story begins in Monterrey, Mexico, an impoverished locale where many people's only luxury is a fanatical devotion to the Brooklyn Dodgers, a team they faithfully follow by radio. It's here where we meet the film's young protagonist Angel Macias (Jake T. Austin), a devoted fan with his own big-league dreams of grandeur, a kid who's created a makeshift strike zone for his precise pitches, despite not having much support or encouragement from his father.
As it turns out, however, Angel's talent for throwing a ball won't be wasted. Determined not to have the city's boys in trouble with the law, a wise, concerned mentor-in-the-making enters the picture when Padre Esteban (Cheech Marin) thinks having a local baseball team might help keep mischief at bay. Aiding in the do-gooding effort is a guy in need of salvation himself: Cesar Faz (Clifton Collins Jr.). Frustrated with having to return to town after his big-league prospects with St. Louis went sour, it turns out that racism (namely that he was Latino) could've been the cause.
Also determined to make her way in the complicated world of sports is a cub reporter named Frankie (LOST actress Emilie de Ravin) with her fair share of setbacks. Constantly ridiculed for trying to infiltrate "a man's world," she's encouraged to simply get married instead of pursuing her dreams. And when she's told she'll be covering Little League (as a joke, to get her off the guys' case, naturally), she has no idea that the story she'll end up reporting will be one for the record books.
With a clear sense of mission and a penchant for hard work, it's enjoyable watching this rag-tag Little League Team from Monterrey slowly become a very big deal—even making history when they score a slot at the World Series championship.
While there's definitely a slew of successes shown on the field (and trust me, some of the baseball scenes do drag on and on), it's the greater sense of accomplishment over racism and sexism that inevitably makes The Perfect Game worthy of its title. Like the best David and Goliath battles, it's inspiring and an important reminder that it's not always about being bigger and better, but that being small, virtuous and determined can lead to even more significant victories off the field, too.
Drugs/Alcohol: Cesar struggles with alcohol and drug abuse after his baseball dreams come crashing down.
Violence: Sports-related action.
Thematic Material: Racism, injustice and sexism are prominent themes that make the story more than just a "fun" baseball movie for all ages. There is plenty of fodder for further discussion for parents.
Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in St. Paul, Minn., she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog.
For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.
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