Note: This appeared in the print-only TV Guide of the Marshall Independent.
I ran into this film quite by accident on Sunday. I was pressed for time, had to have something to review and I really didn’t want to see another iteration of “The Great Gatsby.” I’ve seen the Robert Redford version, a work of genius about people I don’t give a flip about.
I knew “Home Run” was about baseball, and addiction. “42” made me care about baseball, and some people I do give a flip about are in recovery.
Well, you’re not far into the movie before you notice it’s proselytizing for Christianity and promoting Celebrate Recovery, a program run by the Saddleback Church, founded in 1980 by Pastor Rick Warren in Lake Forest, California.
Celebrate Recovery was started in 1990 by Waren and Pastor John Baker in response to the various 12-step Anonymous programs. Warren and Baker have a similar approach but differ on two points. One, they bring all addictive behaviors, “hurts, habits, and hang-ups” under one roof.
And, they felt the AA reference to a “higher power” was too vague and specifically center their reliance on Jesus Christ.
So aside from the message and Frank Capra’s advice to use Western Union if you’ve got one, how does it stack up as entertainment.
Not bad actually, but it can make you more than a bit uncomfortable in spots.
Cory Brand (Scott Elrod) is a major league baseball player with a drinking problem. After publicly screwing up one too many times, accidentally bloodying
Carlos the batboy’s nose (Juan Martinez) while throwing a tantrum, his agent Helene (Vivica A. Fox) sends him home to Okmulgee, Oklahoma to 1) do conspicuous good works, and 2) get into a 12-step program. CR is the only one he can find.
On the way home he crashes a car while tanked to the gills, putting his brother Clay (James Devoti) in the hospital in the process. Which fortuitously gives him the opportunity for well-publicized good works – taking over as coach for the Little League team.
First complication, the batboy plays on the team and is his brother’s adopted son.
Second complication, another coach Emma Johnson (Dorian Brown), is the high school sweetheart he abandoned 10 years before when she got pregnant.
Third complication, their son Tyler (Charles henry Wyson) is on the team and doesn’t know his idol is his father.
The movie starts with a flashback. A bucolic farm scene segues into Cory’s abusive alcoholic father making him practice batting. Dad was a player who never made it past the minor leagues.
Flash forward. Cory is a seriously unlikable person. He’s got the manners, morals and habits of a spoiled six-year-old. He screws up everything for himself, the people who care for him, and won’t acknowledge any responsibility for it.
Watching him can make you squirm in your seat. They’ve got addictive behavior down.
He’s got just two things going for him. One is that he can really hit a ball. The other it turns out, is he has a real gift for coaching kids.
Of course the film is about his literal come-to-Jesus moment, brought about by a combination of things. One of them is learning the sister-in-law (Nicole Leigh) he’d contemptuously dismissed as having no problems greater than a clogged sink, had a childhood rough enough to make him ashamed of his whining. They show this with a brilliantly simple visual involving no special effects magic.
Drawbacks. This is a film about addiction, which they attribute to childhood trauma passed down through generations. But lots more people have rotten childhoods than ever become addicts to substances or self-destructive behavior.
Conversely, lots of addicts have nothing to complain about in their childhoods.
Trauma, especially young no doubt contributes to addictions, but there are other issues as well. Is there such a thing as an addictive personality? If so, is it biochemical in nature, and more to the point is it hereditary?
Is Cory a lush because his dad was abusive, or were they both lushes and prone to be mean when drunk because of their heredity?
And here’s where it gets very interesting. The open profession of faith makes a lot of people uncomfortable these days, but the fact is faith-based programs have comparatively high success rates. If addiction is a biochemical weakness, the “self-medication theory,” then what if living with it involves strong, single-minded belief in… something.
If religion isn’t something you go to the movies for, this isn’t your cup of tea. If you have dealt with addiction, of know someone who has, it might be interesting.
What’s also interesting is, for an indy movie with competent acting and good visual composition, it cost only $1.2 million to make. Which it made back with change its opening weekend.