Movie review: 'The Perfect Game'

It's baseball season, which makes the release timing of the Little League heartwarmer "The Perfect Game" just about perfect. The film is perfectly mediocre, which is heartbreaking, not heartwarming.

In 1957 the Monterrey (Mexico) Industrials became the first team from outside the U.S. to win the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. Screenwriter W. William Winokur wrote the book on it, carrying the same title as his screenplay. The outcome of the big game is never in doubt, but the story of these young kids, beating long odds and contending with all manner of prejudice and racism, is a great sports story.

The movie feels fraudulent, whether it's sticking to the historical record or going its own way with the customary composites and revisions and fabrications. The children comport themselves in a fresh-scrubbed, mugging-to-the-rafters style more appropriate to a remake of "Dondi." Several very good actors, chief among them Clifton Collins Jr. (as Cesar, the coach, who harbored major-league aspirations), are left holding a bag of cliches in scene after scene. Composer Bill Conti's insistently jolly mariachi music couldn't sound more Hollywood and less emotionally authentic if it tried.

Am I expecting too much from a simple, faith-based ( Cheech Marin plays the local baseball-loving padre) Little League movie? Honestly, no. This one simply makes it too easy not to believe in the people, places and challenges on screen. Director William Dear, who swivels between color and black-and-white footage, brought a better brand of corn to his "Angels in the Outfield" remake.

You want an entertaining kids' baseball movie in the fantasy realm? Show your offspring "Rookie of the Year." You want a great baseball movie for both kids and adults? Rent last year's "Sugar," which is a true marvel and should be seen in any case, any time of year. "The Perfect Game" is all heart and no training.

MPAA rating:
PG (for some thematic elements)
Clifton Collins Jr. (Cesar); Cheech Marin (Padre Esteban); Jake T. Austin (Angel); David Koechner (Charlie); Emilie de Ravin (Frankie), Louis Gossett Jr. ( Cool Papa Bell)
Directed by William Dear; written by W. William Winokur, based on his book; produced by Mark Koch, Daniel de Liege, David Salzberg, Christian Turead, Winokur and Michael O. Gallant. An IndustryWorks United LLC release. Running time: 1:53.
Fantasy league
"Sugar" (2009)
follows a young player from the Dominican Republic to Iowa, where the field of dreams is strewn with pitfalls.
"Rookie of the Year" (1993)
features a 12-year-old with a broken arm who becomes a savior for the Chicago Cubs.

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