Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Hardball

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Profanity:Very strong language, most of it used by children
Nudity/Sex:None
Alcohol/Drugs:Drug use, scenes in bar, drinking, smoking
Violence/Scariness:Child shot and killed, another child badly beaten, gang violence
Diversity Issues:Black children helped by white adults
Movie Release Date:2001

“Hardball” is a softball, and this umpire calls it out at first base.

Keanu Reeves plays a compulsive gambler named Conor O’Neill who owes a lot of money to various thugs. A childhood friend offers to pay him $500 a week if he will take over the friend’s responsibility to coach a baseball team in Chicago’s Cabrini Green, one of the nation’s most dangerous housing projects. You know where it goes from there because you’ve seen it in “The Bad News Bears” and “The Mighty Ducks” and dozens of clones. That is not always a bad thing – there’s always room for another story of underdogs and redemption. But this one never delivers on any of the opportunities that formula creates. There’s a nine-member team and we barely get to know any of them except for two inevitable cliches — the fat kid and the cute little kid who talks a lot. Reeves can be terrific in a part that suits his range, but the blankness that works well for him in dumb parts (“Bill and Ted”) and silent parts (“Speed,” “The Matrix”) does not give him enough to work with when he is supposed to be struggling with his compulsion to gamble or angry with himself for getting into trouble. Reeves gets no help from the script, which makes him behave in an arbitrary and inconsistent manner and does not have a single memorable line of dialogue. We don’t want to be told that he and the kids come to care for each other in a movie like this – we want to be shown. And there is not one moment of practice, teaching skills (baseball or otherwise), or conversation to make us believe it.

The movie makes the most of the audience’s inherent commitment to the storyline. We want those kids to make it, and we want Conor to make it, too. The other reason to watch is yet another quietly arresting performance by Diane Lane, who brings a delicacy and complexity to every moment she is on screen.

The script is strictly by-the-numbers, but there is a timely plot twist concerning a player with a forged birth certificate. One of the movie’s most wrenching scenes shows him after he is kicked off the team, wearing gang colors and warning his former teammates with a meaningful glance to get away quickly.

Parents should know that the movie includes very strong language, including many four-letter words used by children. The boys are surrounded by drug use and gang violence. They can identify the weapon by the sound of the shooting and take it for granted that they must sit on the floor to be out of the way of gunfire that might come in the window. One child is badly beaten and another is killed.

I have to say something here about the MPAA’s rating system. This film was originally intended to be released as an R, due to the language used by the children. The producers argued that it was an authentic portrayal of the way that people in that environment speak. Protests during the filming, and, more significantly, marketing concerns about whether the audience really wanted an R-rated movie about a little league team, led them to cut some of the worst language to obtain a PG-13 rating. This shows again the absurdity of the MPAA’s standards because the movie still has some material, including the gang shooting of a child, that is far more likely to be upsetting to younger audiences than a few four-letter words.

Families who see this movie should talk about how the children helped Conor realize that he needed to make some changes. Why was it important that Conor made a rule that the players could not insult each other? What did Conor learn from G-Baby? What do you think will happen to the members of the team when they get too old to play in the league?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The Sandlot and Angels in the Outfield. They might also like To Sir, with Love.



Previous Posts

Lucy
I always enjoy Luc Besson's stylish car chases and shootouts. I like his use of locations, his strong female characters, and unexpected flashes of sentiment in the midst of mayhem.  While

posted 6:00:51pm Jul. 24, 2014 | read full post »

And So It Goes
A second marriage is, as Samuel Johnson famously said, "The triumph of hope over experience." And as lyricist Sammy Cahn wrote in the song Bing Crosby sang in "H

posted 6:00:13pm Jul. 24, 2014 | read full post »

The Memory Book -- This Saturday on the Hallmark Channel
A budding, young photographer stumbles upon an old photo album chronicling the ideal romance of a happy couple. Intrigued by their love and unable to find her own “true love,” she sets out to find the couple and figure out if true love really exists.  The film stars Meghan Ory (“Once Upon a T

posted 8:00:57am Jul. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: Michael Rossato-Bennett of "Alive Inside"
Michael Rossato-Bennett agreed to spend one day filming Dan Cohen's remarkable music therapy work with people struggling with dementia. He ended up spending three years there and the result is "Alive Inside," an extraordinary documentary about the power of music to reach the human spirit, even when

posted 3:58:01pm Jul. 23, 2014 | read full post »

Movies' Greatest Mirror Scenes
Anne Billson has a great piece in The Telegraph on mirror scenes in movies, from the Marx brothers clowning in "Duck Soup" and the shootout in "The Lady from Shanghai" to Elizabeth Taylor scrawling on the mirror with lipstick in "Butterfield 8." [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKTT-sy0aLg

posted 8:00:51am Jul. 23, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.