- compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 Jan
Until now, screenwriter John Lee Hancock was best known for penning
Sources say very few details in this true story have been altered to please the crowd—there's no
Sports movies are too often tailored to convince us that all we need is willpower and a dream.
Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) is inspired by the story. He writes that Hancock and Rich "do lay the schmaltz on a bit thickly. But, to their credit, they do replicate the small town flavor of a community bound together by the personal heroics of one of their own. The way the people important to Jimmy rallied around him, encouraging and exhorting him to go forward to achieve his goals … is exactly how members in the body of Christ are to help one another."
In a review appearing online today, Douglas LeBlanc (Christianity Today) highlights "the film's prevailing theme of grace coming into the lives of people who pursue their dreams with courage and love." LeBlanc argues that Morris's quest for the major leagues is "less interesting … than the back story written by Mike Rich. Morris's father is so emotionally repressed that he cannot touch his son even in a moment of athletic triumph. Character actor Brian Cox brings subtlety to a role that he could have easily overplayed. The tentative steps toward reconciliation between father and son make the G-rated
Jamee Kennedy (The Film Forum) calls it "a triumph of heart and soul and a wonderfully uplifting movie. Although the film's promos drip testosterone-laden baseball action, this film is really all about second chances and what we do with them."
The U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops calls it an "uplifting charmer. In spite of a few sags in momentum … Hancock's film pulls on the heart strings … while pleasing and inspiring without the slightest suggestion of violence, sex, or even a crude word."
Bob Smithouser (Focus on the Family) says the film "celebrates hard work, community, perseverance and the need for spouses to share a common, unselfish vision for their home. Also, there's a sharp contrast between healthy and unhealthy approaches to fathering.
Holly McClure (Crosswalk) calls it "one of the best baseball movies ever made. Much more than just a story about the sport, it's a testimony that God can give second chances in life no matter how old a person is. This one will go on my list as one of the top ten movies this year, and I predict it will be a huge hit!"
Lisa Rice (
Douglas Downs (Christian Spotlight) responds euphorically: "Christians and people that value high morals need to support this film. Let's create some positive buzz!"
Some Christian critics prefer to focus on what the movie doesn't have. Mary Draughon (Preview) writes, "It's heartwarming to see an entertaining, feature film about a loving family.
Even hard-to-please critics in the mainstream press are won over. Stephanie Zacharek of Salon.com writes, "The idea is sentimental, but Quaid dries all the sappiness out of it. There's something in his face that suggests both contentment and restlessness, but even more important, the sense that it's perfectly natural (and understandable) for the two to coexist in all of us. That's what makes his moments of joy—the swollen music on the soundtrack notwithstanding—seem pure and wholly believable."
Kirk Honeycutt (Hollywood Reporter) says it "derives its power by sticking to the facts."
Jeffrey Wells (Reel.com) finds it a rare treasure: "Comparisons have been made to
Marc Caro (
Disney's inspiring true-life baseball story
Steven D. Greydanus (Decent Films) calls the story of baseball hero Jim Morris "sweetly appealing, inspirational, and wholesome—a story you're glad to learn really happened, more or less as the movie presents it, without the problematic historical footnotes that intrude upon films like
I caught up with it myself and was deeply moved by its honesty and grace—not words I would usually use to describe formulaic Disney product. It takes the touch of an artist to invigorate a familiar outline with fresh ideas, or to use metaphors that make the work resonate on different levels.
There is a startling moment near the film's conclusion when Jim Morris (Dennis Quaid, in an Oscar-worthy performance) grabs hold of his wife's hand and looks at her with an expression of amazement and gratitude that was in no way the Hollywood moment you'd expect—it turns our attention away from Morris and reminds us of the powers and miracles that brought him to that place. It rings true. Morris is not a big-screen hero in the "I did it my way" tradition. His achievements are the result of a cooperative effort that emphasize how we are all role models for each other—parent to child, husband to wife, teacher to student, and sometimes even students to teacher.