DVD Release Date: October 8, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: April 19, 2013
Rating: PG-13 for some mature thematic material
Genre: Sports drama
Run Time: 113 minutes
Director: David Boyd
Cast: Scott Elrod, Dorian Brown, Vivica A. Fox, Charles Henry Wyson, James Devoti

Cory Brand (Scott Elrod) is a major league baseball player with a temper that's even hotter than his hitting streak. When he finally goes one stupid stunt too far, Cory is ordered into a recovery program. Fine. He'll play along; whatever it takes to get back on the field. What Cory didn’t count on was getting stuck in his hometown of Muskogee, Oklahoma; a place with memories - and people - he's spent his adult life trying to leave behind. Before he can move on Cory will have to step up to the plate in more ways than one.

In a brilliant PR move, Cory's agent (Vivica A. Fox, Independence Day) arranges for him to coach a little league team while he’s in town. She even finds him a local recovery program; it's Celebrate Recovery, a real-life program, which she describes as a 12 step program that’s "normal… but with Jesus." And now we come to the real point of the film, which is pretty much a two-hour commercial for Celebrate Recovery. Fortunately for the audience, as promotional videos go it’s a surprisingly good one. Home Run may not have knocked it completely out of the park, but it’s definitely a major league effort.

Elrod does an excellent job as Cory, making him likeable even when he’s being a jerk, which is often. He’s got just the right loveable gleam in his bad-boy eye and the good looks to back up his superstar ballplayer status. His journey to redemption is neither easy nor quick (kudos, producers, for keeping it as real as possible) but he keeps the audience firmly on his side and on the side of his little leaguers.

The team Cory is pressed into coaching is co-coached by his former girlfriend, Emma (Dorian Brown). To say they have unresolved issues would be an understatement. Emma is a taut bundle of nerves when Cory’s around, which makes for some interesting games. Predictably, the team is the laughing stock of the league until Coach Cory comes along to make winners of them all, particularly Emma’s son Tyler (Charles Henry Wyson). While Cory’s easy charm feels a tad unrealistic for a man nursing daily hangovers, he does have years of experience as a functioning alcoholic to help him cope.

Which brings us back to Celebrate Recovery. The meeting scenes are about as lifelike as you can get. "Core members of the Home Run production team" actually went through the program themselves and chose real testimonies to share in the film. This is where the "13" part of the PG-13 rating comes in. Cory is shocked to hear people talk about sex in church as group members share testimonies of pornography addictions, sexual abuse, and other gritty realities. These testimony segments act almost like commercial breaks between other scenes, but they’re delivered with power and are not out of place in the story.

Despite the obvious message and predictable plot that naturally plague most Christian films, there are so many things to like about Home Run. The characters are engaging and their dialogue makes them sound like real people, no easy feat when discussing such deeply emotional, spiritual issues. A well-meaning script like this can tend to sound stilted and infomercial-esque, but there’s a natural quality to most Home Run conversations. And the production quality is simply superb: close ups, wide shots, moody scenes of deserted ballparks... every frame adds visual value. The soundtrack (mostly original music by Scott Allan Matthews) is excellent too, with one exception: the movie's "big speech" is underscored by what sounds like an altar call track.

It’s refreshing to see a Christian message of hope delivered with such grace in a movie this well produced. Let’s hope Home Run commences a rally of many solid hits for Provident Films.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Cory is an alcoholic, so there’s a significant amount of drinking and drunken behavior shown, but we also see his efforts to resist the siren call of alcohol. Other characters also shown drinking and drunk; a couple of scenes in a bar.
  • Language/Profanity: Several instances of adults bullying children by calling them names (like ‘sissy’), telling them to shut up, and humiliating children in front of others. Children complain "this bites" and "we suck." Fart joke that seems to be requisite to any film involving boys.
  • Violence: Several adult temper tantrums (yelling, items thrown, etc.); child hit (accidentally) by adult; auto accident; punch (deserved) thrown; several children act out by throwing/knocking over items.
  • Sex/Nudity: Cleavage shown in low-cut dress the character apparently considered appropriate business attire; brief kissing; mention of an incident at a strip club; testimonies of overcoming porn addiction and sexual abuse; man’s bare chest briefly shown
  • Spiritual Themes: Hope and healing; freedom and redemption. The film’s tag line is "freedom is possible" but the story makes it clear that it’s not possible without Jesus.

Publication date: April 19, 2013