Clifton Collins Jr.
Jake T. Austin
Theres a scene in The Perfect Game in which theres this pristine clean baseball that appears on the field when the Little Leaguers ask their priest what it could mean that such a dust-free, new ball could appear on their dirty field, and said priest replies that it means God wants them to play baseball. This line gives an indication of the kind of movie you have here; a sweet but ultimately forgettable true story that plays like an Afterschool Special. There are worse ways to do movie day with the family, though, and despite its many issues, it sometimes feels like a welcome respite from the recent glut of 3D everything or raunchy comedies.
Based on the true story of the first foreign Little League team to claim Little League World Series victory, The Perfect Game details the rise of a group of boys from Monterey, Mexico, their coach Cesar (Clifton Collins Jr.), and loveable priest Padre Estaban (Cheech Marin). Set in 1957, the boys face racism, poverty, and all the other obstacles theyd face now, only a whole bunch worse because, as were reminded repeatedly, even in an era of hula-hoops, lots of things were pretty bad for lots of people.
Theres nothing really to hate about The Perfect Game, but theres nothing really to love, either. Its overly sentimental, tries to take on way too much (sports, relationships, history, racism, faith, and a myriad of social injustice) instead of placing its focus straight on the boys, and has some of the clunkiest dialogue in Clunky Dialogue Land. Director William Dear is making a career out of baseball-playing-kid flicks (Angels in the Outfield, The Sandlot 3), and here, he doesnt do much to inspire like he should in a story full of inspiration. Everything is a little bland and generic, from the poor Mexican village that lets us know where we are with some street-wandering chickens to the bigotry faced by minorities in the fifties. This is an overcoming the odds movie, though, and its hard to root against a film, no matter how marshmallow-y sweet it is, with a bunch of kids winning at sports. In a movie world where ticket prices are over $10 per person in most places, a small, simple film like this one needs to be REALLY good to warrant an investment, and while its a nice little thing, again, it might make a decent rent when it comes out on DVD, but in this form, its too small for the big screen.
It's Got: Pretty good performances, Old-fashioned charm, Cheech Marin
It Needs: Less sap, More of the real story, More spark
Dont run out and plunk down your hard-earned bucks for it, but if you want a pleasantly forgettable afternoon of harmless, melodramatic sweetness, go to a matinee with the family.