Appellate Judge James A. Stewart is president of the Society to Preserve Baseball Movie Cliches.
"I'm a force our team can't afford to be without."—Calvin Marshall
Calvin Marshall starts off like your typical baseball underdog story, showing the college athlete teaching kids the game, then moving on to a workout montage that includes Calvin Marshall running the bases alone, and then shows him struggling in a tryout where the coach is advised to "Just cut him now." He doesn't exactly make the team, and hides the fact by pointing to an injury.
Even so, in the first half hour, you'll probably be expecting some quirk of fate that'll put Calvin on the spot so he can show what he's really made of, saving the day and leading his team to victory.
You would, of course, be wrong.
The key moment in the movie comes when the coach, himself a failed pro, tells Calvin: "You're the most delusional player that I've ever met. You're an embarrassment to the sport." It's not something Calvin's going to overcome, at least not on the baseball field.
Calvin Marshall avoids baseball movie clichés, turning into a story about giving up and moving on for Calvin and his girlfriend, who actually is a star athlete on the volleyball court. The performances are good, most notably Alex Frost (Drillbit Taylor) as the dreamer Calvin and Steve Zahn (Daddy Day Care) as Coach Doug Little, who heaps profanity on his players and seems permanently attached to a barstool, yet shows signs of caring about his team and his sport. Brief appearances by Cynthia Watros (Lost) and Diedrich Bader (The Drew Carey Show) round things out. The story is well-executed and heartfelt, although the coach's profanity and a brief make-out scene do more to distract from the story than flesh it out.
The movie, shot in Oregon, looks and sounds good on my screener disc, except for a glitch around the 16-minute mark.
Still, I'm divided about this one. There's a reason for baseball movie clichés: People like 'em. It's human nature (or at least my nature) to want to see the underdog succeed, especially in rough times. There's something sad about seeing a well-drawn character set up to fail. It's touching, but some of you will want the cornball stuff anyway.
If you're not attached to the familiar happy ending, though, Calvin Marshall is a decent little movie, and there are hints of small triumphs at the end. You might want to rent it.
Not guilty. It does what it sets out to do, whether you're in the mood to
appreciate it or not.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Broken Sky Films
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