I’m sure very few people have heard of this film. There seemed to be very little marketing behind it, which is truly a shame. I was pleasantly surprised by this little gem.
Based on the book of the same name by W. William Winokur (who also wrote the script), The Perfect Game recounts the true story of a scrappy group of boys in Monterrey, Mexico, who end up competing in the 1957 Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Padre Esteban (Cheech Marin), the local Catholic priest, mentors the boys, fuels their baseball dreams, and guides their faith in God. Cesar Faz (Clifton Collins Jr.) coaches the new team, but struggles to overcome his failed attempt as a baseball prospect in America due to racism. Other supporting characters include Maria (Patricia Manterola), the coach’s love interest, and Frankie (Emilie de Ravin from ABC’s Lost), a sassy newspaper reporter who documents the boys’ journey.
Throughout the film, the boys struggle against discrimination due to their economic situation, their race, and their faith. These issues are simply displayed and not explored in depth. Thinking as an adult moviegoer (my default setting), I initially thought it would be interesting to explore these elements in more detail. But quickly I realized the film would’ve alienated its younger audiences if it had taken that route.
The cast is really what makes this film work. Cheech Marin is terrific as Padre Esteban, while Clifton Collins Jr. is a perfect fit in his role. Oscar-winner Louis Gossett Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman) and Frances Fisher (Titanic) make excellent cameos, as well. But the real stars are the young actors. They fill the screen with humor, joy, and sincerity.
In addition to the focus on discrimination, faith plays a very important role in the film. The boys are devoted to their faith and understand that anything is possible with God. When Padre Esteban is unable to attend a series game, the boys refuse to play until someone blesses them. Fortunately, an African American minister (John Cothran Jr.) steps in to assist. It’s nice to see how the Christian themes — especially the importance of faith and devotion to God — are nicely woven into the story without it sounding preachy or as if there’s an agenda attached.
Directed by William Dear (1994’s Angels in the Outfield remake), this film is your classic underdog sports story, filled with several unavoidable clichés that are common in this genre. Many critics will raise a stink over this issue, but I’m not one of them — and I don’t think general audiences will mind either. The audience at my screening laughed, cheered, and applauded throughout the film. The Perfect Game may not be a perfect movie, but it is full of heart and fun.
Release Date: April 16, 2010 (limited)
Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.
MPAA Rating: PG for some thematic elements.
Production Co.: Lone Runner Entertainment, Mandalay Series Television, Prelude Pictures