Judge Bill Gibron once batted clean-up for the Toledo Mudhens...in his dreams.
No one believed in them…until they believed in themselves.
Rico Deluca (Dean Cain, Lois and Clark) and his brother Joey (Matthew Lillard, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated) always wanted to be professional baseball players. Ever since they were little boys, their father, Big Al (Barry Bostwick, The Rocky Horror Picture Show) instilled a sense of friendly sibling rivalry in them. When Rico finally made it to the Bigs—for what turned out to be a very short-lived career—he became a local hero. Joey, on the other hand, has hints of a troubled past. Now, both men have returned home and Rico is desperate to coach his consistently first place team of ragtag Little Leaguers to the annual Home Run Showdown. There, they get the honor of shagging balls for the stars on display. Eventually, Joey is roped into doing the same for the miserable, last place Cubs, with Al putting his baseball-themed cafe up to the eventual winner. As they grapple with the individual issues presented by their underage charges, they soon realize that this competition is as much about their past as it is their present possibilities.
Home Run Showdown contains as much corn as an Iowa farm. It's built on known narrative contrivances and a storyline steeped in "sports as life" lessons. At the center are two leads (Cain and Lillard) who have proven their ability to play likeable, and a surrounding cast of kids who turn their often ersatz Bad News Bears / The Sandlot shtick into something truly memorable. And yet, this is far from a perfect film. It ladles out its teachings in melodramatic fashion and puts way too much emphasis on the dysfunctional adults. Granted, it's nice to see the wee ones being pushed aside, essentially, for more mature material, but director Oz Scott specializes in such underage fare. You can tell he's more comfortable with the children than he is moderating the oldsters. Still, he does a good job handling the last-act clash, making sure we are invested in the outcome, the particular players involved, and the overall sense of urgency…and fun.
All of this makes Home Run Showdown obligatory, old-fashioned entertainment. It hits the right notes, dances to the right beats, and belies its earnest message in moments of real humor and heart. It doesn't have the zing of classic sports movies, but then again, it doesn't really need it. Instead, it leans toward its strengths, struggles mightily against a sea of addled archetypes, and ends up providing a great deal of joy. It may not do so in the best way possible, and we may have seen this kind of film dozens of times before, but that's the beauty of what Scott and his cast accomplish. They manage to take something that could have easily been overwrought and overdone and find the proper balance between grin and groan. You may not always agree with the approach, but Home Run Showdown definitely offers up a delightful diversion.
Technically, things look pretty good on this Blu-ray release. The 1.78:1, 1080p image is excellent, with just a bit of softness around the edges and some slight grain. Still, the colors pop and the details are easily identified. As for the aural attributes, we are treated to a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix that doesn't do much except provide pristine dialogue. There is little immersion and the back speakers get little use. At least the score, by Austin Wintory, comes across cleanly. Another negative is the shoddy treatment of the title in terms of added content. There is not a single bonus feature here, not even a trailer. In fact, it would be nice to hear Scott discuss the film, or listen to Cain and Lillard talk about playing blood rivals. Instead, we are left with the main movie—and nothing else.
That's okay, however. While it definitely doesn't live up to the far-more-famous films in its subgenre, Home Run Showdown is a decent sports movie. Nothing more and, luckily, nothing less.
Not Guilty. Schmaltzy but still enjoyable.
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