Guide to Baseball Films: The 2000s

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One of the better historically-based sport films, well-cast and featuring loving period detail.

Remake of The Bad News Bears (1976). The formula is by now so well-worn that the remake can barely keep forward momentum; the action reduces to a series of one-liners wandering in a plot desert. Billy Bob Thornton as the coach can't match the end-of-his-tether malaise of Walter Matthau's original performance, and instead offers a certain insincere glibness. Features one of the duller and more protracted Big Game sequences in baseball film history.

I'm going to star this one as undeniably original and genuinely funny in its own manic way, but it's not for all tastes or even most. A live-action version of a Japanese manga comic, the kind that are more frequently made into anime films, this one spoofs sport-film conventions in a hit-or-miss fashion.

Charming date movie with good baseball detail. Though the plot arc is a little predictable and a little too much geared toward the laughs of the moment rather than overall dramatic logic, well-pitched performances by Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon compensate.

From Alfred Slote's novel, this film features a strong central performance by Ossie Davis, and a nice cameo by Cub immortal Ernie Banks. Ruby Dee plays Buck McHenry's wife, fifty years after she played Jackie Robinson's.

Intelligently constructed, brilliantly edited thriller that features considerable Twilight-Zone suspense and a large helping of Field of Dreams.

Written by Don DeLillo and intriguingly acted by Michael Keaton and supporting players Robert Downey, Jr., Griffin Dunne, Bebe Neuwirth, Harris Yulin, and Catherine O'Hara. Ultimately DeLillo's signature detachment drains the intensity from the story, but the picture gets some points for originality and effort.

Delightful short that replicates old newsreel styles, based on a short story by Chet Williamson. Features a charming central performance by Delfin Labao as Gandhi.

An essentially undramatic story. Screenwriter Christian Darren tries to give us someone to identify with in the character of Rose's chief accuser, Paul Janszen, but the lack of suspense and the unrelentingly slimy nature of the situation and the central character are hard to overcome. Gamely acted by Tom Sizemore as Rose and Dash Mihok as Janszen.

The presence of star Bernie Mac should promise a laugh-fest, but this turns out to be a low-key formulaic light melodrama.

Pleasant enough in its first hour, when normal high-school sport-movie formulas are obeyed; not much dramatic action in the second hour, as the film plods toward the foregone conclusion of Morris's major-league debut. Watch for Rachel Griffiths, arms full of groceries, kicking off her shoes.

Criticism: Ardolino

One of the lesser efforts from 5 Second Films, but in an odd way it captures the essence of the steroid panic in baseball.

Takes a truly original approach both to the busher-makes-good story and the American immigrant story. "Sugar" Santos doesn't follow the typical Kid from Tomkinsville path from obscurity to triumph to adversity to triumph. Instead, he chooses to get off the formulaic track altogether and deliberately, and constructs a new life for himself by shedding his baseball dreams. Sport retains its magic, in a charming final sequence, but for Sugar it isn't the only venue worth succeeding in.