Think of it as the “Good News Bears.” This sweet, sometimes sugary film is based on a real-life Little League team from Monterrey, Mexico who came to the United States to play in the Little League World Series of 1957 and not only won every match but, well, you saw the title.
Jake T. Austin of “Wizards of Waverly Place” plays the baseball-mad Angel, who lives with his parents in a desperately poor community. He and his friends love to hear about pro games and players in America. They want to learn how to play but they do not even have a baseball, much less a playing field or a coach.
Angel finds a ball and then he finds a coach in Cesar Faz (Clifton Collins, Jr.), a factory worker who once worked with the St. Louis Cardinals. The boys make their own field. With the help of Coach Faz and inspiration from Padre Estaban (Cheech Marin, adding another to his list of screen roles as a priest), the boys become a team. When they get a chance to play in the Little League World Series, they each take only one change of underwear, carried in a brown paper bag. First, it’s all they have. But second, it never occurs to them that they will win, so they assume they will be home after the first game.
But they win. And they win again. A woman reporter (Emilie de Ravin, channeling all the girl reporter actresses of the 1930’s newspaper movies) reluctantly accepts the assignment, then is captivated by the courage and dedication of the team. As they rise through the ranks, they encounter racism, xenophobia, and just plain old hostility. But they hold on to their ideals — including refusing to play unless they can be led in prayer first (we find out why they are so partial to Psalm 108. They get help from some unexpected sources: a sympathetic diner owner (Frances Farmer), the reporter and a groundskeeper who once played in the Negro Leagues (a fine Louis Gossett, Jr.). And they keep winning.
It has a retro feel that has nothing to do with its 1957 setting, but like its pint-sized team (inches smaller and pounds lighter than its opponents), the movie has so much heart that it is easy to root for. Collins and Marin are engaging enough to give the predictable and light-weight script a little extra heft. If “The Perfect Game” is not the perfect movie, it is an enjoyable little fable that will be fun for Little Leaguers and their families.