Anchor Bay // 2001 // 104 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 19th, 2005
Dirty cheaters versus dirty Communists. Who to root for?
If you were a loving father with a talented young baseball pitcher for a son and were facing indictment from the government for fraud and tax evasion, what would you do? Well, if you were Harry Connick, Jr., you just might get some fake identities and blow town.
Tripp Spence (Connick, Jr., Independence Day) is going through a rough patch in his life. He lost his wife a year ago to illness and has to file for bankruptcy because of the oppressive medical bills. The only bright spot in his existence is his son Derek (Shawn Salinas). Derek is an exceptionally talented pitcher who has just wrapped up a final, dominant season of Little League play. He's turning 13, which makes him ineligible to continue with Little League, and it is a chapter of life he his unhappy to see come to a close.
But when Tripp reveals his ploy to evade the government, Derek might get another year to shine. To avoid the IRS, the father and son hightail it to Las Vegas with new names and new hair colors. As an added bonus, Derek (now Mickey) has identification that claims he's one year younger than he actually is. And that of course means more Little League! Let's hear it for flagrant dishonesty!
Tripp goes along with it, eager to see his son torch the Nevada leagues despite a bit of uneasiness related to (a) the risk they run that Mickey will be identified by someone as Derek and (b) that whole cheating thing. Unexpectedly (or not, the kid is bigger and older than everyone else), Mickey's new team breezes through the tournaments and ends up in the Little League World Series, where they face off with the controversial and overwhelming brute squad that is the Cuban national team. Will father and son's secret eventually be revealed? And will the federal government choose to engage the Communist threat on the high-stakes battleground of Little League baseball?
I suppose the biggest draw for this flick would be found in its title: Mickey: A Family Story by John Grisham. Best-selling novelist Grisham wrote the screenplay and produced the film. However, Grisham fans ought not to expect any trace of the legal intrigue that made him famous. This is a sports movie. And while it's certainly not terrible, it's hard to get behind this film.
It is certainly tailored to be a feel-good kids' sports flick, but the film is lacking a key ingredient: characters to feel good about. For every minute except the last ten or so, our protagonists are willfully cheating and deceiving for little more than personal satisfaction and glory. Mickey's participation in Little League makes zero practical sense, considering his dad's fugitive status. For every dramatic win, every blistering fastball, and every scene of teammates hugging and celebrating, I couldn't help but think: "Sure, good for the little cheater, but how about those poor opposing teams who practice hard and abide by the rules?"
Thankfully, my moral compass was partially righted when the filmmakers introduced the Big Bad: the Cuban Little League team! DUM DUM DUMMM! And here is where the film spiraled into the realm of the ridiculous. The federal government, unhappy that Cuba is taking part in the World Series, and suspecting that the team is made up of a battalion of overaged sluggers, prompts Mickey's team to defeat the commie bastards for all the world to see -- or at least that part of the world that watches televised Little League baseball.
So that part was really stupid, but the film ends with an ultra-concentrated mixture of life lessons and teary penance. Not to worry, kids, responsibility is not shirked and appropriate punishment is dealt to deserving parties. Still, after 90 minutes of reckless abandon, this last-ditch effort at recompense is marginally unsatisfactory.
As is the norm, Anchor Bay has put together a fine disc. The 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is very clean; there are no signs of grit or grain. The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix is active enough, though a five-channel track would have benefited the film more, specifically during the in-game sequences. For extras director Hugh Wilson delivers a commentary and, along with Grisham, a 10-minute interview segment. Both Wilson and Grisham recollect extensively on their baseball memories, which represented one of the main reasons the two made the film.
A note about the game sequences: They're lively and fun, but they suffer because of the aforementioned lack of sympathy for the cheating protagonists.
Mickey: A Family Story by John Grisham is well-made film. It's just that for a feel-good flick it doesn't really evoke many feelings of goodness until the end, where some comeuppance is served. But it was too little, too late for this judge.
The accused is sent back to, er, the tee-ball leagues?
Review content copyright © 2005 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Director's Commentary
* Interviews with John Grisham and Director Hugh Wilson
* Still Gallery
* Radio Spot