There are always people who want Hollywood to make more wholesome movies. “I am tired of all the sex and violence on screen,” they say. “There is too much profanity in movies today. I want movies that affirm my faith and my values. I do not go to the movies to be offended.”
All of these are legitimate opinions. This question, however, is legitimate, too: Do those who often make these statements seek out the kind of films they imply that they want to watch?
“The Perfect Game” is just such a film. There is nothing offensive here. It tells a true story that is inspiring. Both prayer and Scripture reading are affirmed in the film. Issues such as racism, grief and poverty are considered, but not in a heavy-handed or preachy way. True morals and values are demonstrated by the characters. And the emotional script ultimately lifts the spirit.
“The Perfect Game” tells the remarkable story of the first non-U.S. team to go to the Little League World Series. The year is 1951. A group of boys in Mexico loves baseball and wants to form a team. Through a lot of effort, the help of a priest, the guidance of a coach and a great deal of faith, the boys learn the game. The rest of the plot involves their trip to the United States to play ball.
As for the craft of filmmaking, “The Perfect Game” is not a perfect film. Several of the children deliver occasional line readings lacking the needed nuance. There are at least two editing mistakes that should have been caught. And the plot is predictable – as are most sports films to any seasoned movie-watcher.
But the film’s most appalling weakness ends up being its greatest strength: This movie oozes sentiment.
Almost every scene is played for emotion. One cannot watch the film without thinking the filmmakers are trying to manipulate the audience to care more than they should. Then we see all those clips of authentic newsreel footage reminding us that this really happened.
In the end, as one realizes that these actors are portraying the real boys who lived this story, it does not seem to matter that the tears are orchestrated. They are still real. The film tries to move the audience with its humor and poignancy and, in the case of “The Perfect Game,” that ends up being OK.
The wholesome spirit and extreme sentimentality fit a film set in 1951. In fact, it almost feels like it was made then (except the issues of race would have probably not been mentioned). This is the kind of live-action film Disney used to make – a film for the whole family. It is also the kind of film that we rarely ever see anymore. Considering how enjoyable it ultimately is, it seems a shame that there are so few films like “The Perfect Game” in the local multiplex.
In the screening I attending last Saturday, there were three people, counting me, watching “The Perfect Game.” I know the other two enjoyed it because they applauded several times during the film. For its entire opening weekend, “The Perfect Game” took in $494,000; that’s about 1/40th the gross of “How to Train Your Dragon” that same weekend, and “Dragon” is in its fourth week of release.
Both films are great family entertainment. Unfortunately, only one will still be in theaters in another week unless people respond. “The Perfect Game” deserves an audience.
If it doesn’t find one, the next time someone tells me they do not make good wholesome entertainment any more, I am going to reply, “Did you go see ‘The Perfect Game’ in the theater? If you did not, then you have no right to complain about the films Hollywood is making.”
Roger Thomas is pastor of First Baptist Church in Albemarle, N.C.
MPAA Rating: PG for some thematic elements.
Director: William Dear
Writer: W. William Winokur
Cast: Clifton Collins Jr.: Cesar; Cheech Marin: Padre Estaban; Jake T. Austin: Angel Macias; Moises Arias: Mario; Gabriel Morales: Ricardo Trevino; Ryan Ochoa: Norberto; Carlos Padilla: Baltazar; Jansen Panettiere: Enrique; Mario Quinonez Jr.: Gerado; Anthony Quinonez: Fidel; Carlos Gomez: Umberto Macias; Emilie de Ravin: Frankie; Patricia Manterola: Maria.
The movie’s website is here.