Cesar (Clifton Collins Jr., Star Trek) has returned to his native Mexico after his major league career is cut short. However, his career is reborn when a group of determined kids recruit him as coach for their rag-tag baseball team. Moises Arias (“Hannah Montana”), and Ryan Ochoa (“Pair of Kings”) costar as these resolute underdogs with Jake T. Austin (“Wizards of Waverly Place”) as Angel Macias, their ambidextrous pitcher...and the only pitcher to throw a Perfect Game in the championship game of the LLWS.
Together they form the unlikeliest of teams with the unlikeliest of goals. Cheech Marin (Spy Kids), Lou Gossett Jr. (Iron Eagle), Bruce McGill (Animal House), Emilie de Ravin (Lost) and David Koechner (Anchorman) also appear in this uplifting film directed by William Dear (Angels in the Outfield, Harry and the Hendersons).
There's something slightly off about 'The Perfect Game'. It's your traditional feel-good inspirational sports movie. It's based on a true story, but has been so inundated with Hollywood mumbo-jumbo that you wonder if the only truthfulness going on here is the outcome. It's just too sugary, too cloying. It's one of those movies that will throw a catchy line at you in the beginning and then set up a perfect moment so that line can be repeated again, with emphasis.
You can't really describe 'The Perfect Game' as being cliché because inspirational sports movies are doomed to be clichéd just by their existence. Once and a while the team we're rooting for doesn't actually with The Big Game, but most of the time they do. They learn a few things along the way, and teach a bigger lesson to the people around them. That's about the gist of the genre.
The setting in Monterrey, Mexico. Cesar Faz (Clifton Collins Jr.) knows how to play baseball and was even affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals. He was a towel boy, but he knows how to play the game. It's his nationality that holds him back. He wants to play in the majors, but letting Mexicans play in the game would just be silly. Cesar heads back to Mexico and takes up a menial job at a local steel factory.
Meanwhile, the kids of the village are nutty about baseball. They're like tiny Hispanic versions of 'The Sandlot' kids. As a matter of fact I wouldn't be surprised if they were patterned after those kids. They've got the same mannerisms, they act the same way, and they go through the same set of training montages to become ready. They want to form their own little league team and they'd like Cesar to coach them. Like Coach Bombay from 'The Mighty Ducks' Cesar is hesitant at first, but soon becomes enamored with the little tykes.
Monterrey gets its little league team and then the games begin. The kids train, and train and in the formulaic spirit of the underdog they overcome the odds and take down the bigger, stronger, whiter teams. Race relations, or lack thereof, play a huge part in this movie and you can tell that they really wanted to play up the bigotry that was focused towards these youngsters as they traveled around America beating up on American teams. The problem is there's nothing subtle about these actions in the movie. The racist characters become complete caricatures of themselves. Like they were told by the director to act really, really racist. So they snarl, and sneer, and growl, but you never take any of the actors seriously. There's no malevolence behind their threats. The acting here is so hollow, so see-thru that it's hard to take them seriously. I'm sure this group of kids went through a lot as they tried to play baseball in America in the 50s, but their plight isn't helped by the overly melodramatic acting going on here.
In the end, 'The Perfect Game' is just too obvious. It smacks you in the face with its message instead of letting it wash over you. It makes these kids, who I'm sure were great young boys, into cartoon characters with cheesy grins and cheesy dialogue. There's no real heart here. There's nothing that draws you in. It's all surface, nothing deeper.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Perfect Game' comes to Blu-ray from Image Entertainment. It's been pressed onto a 25GB Blu-ray Disc and is region free.
Like the movie's all-over feel the look to 'The Perfect Game' feels the same way. While that really doesn't have any bearing on the Blu-ray's video presentation, it does create a strange, haphazard movie that constantly looks just about average.
Color timing is all over the place, again, on purpose. Colors are boosted or sapped depending on the scene. Detail is good though. There's a strong amount of facial detail in each and every close up. Mid-range photography gets a little hazier, but it's still serviceable. When they aren't messing with the colors, the movie has a vibrant look to it. The blues and reds of the Monterrey jerseys leap off the screen. The muted greens of well-used baseball grass shimmer. Blacks are nice and deep, creating well delineated shadows. There's not too many darkly lit scenes though, but still shadows are well done here.
Contrast is solid and the movie retains its filmic look with a thin layer of grain. Something that's really easy to pick out in high definition is the digital insertion of fake people filling the outfield grandstands at the little league game. It looks bad. Really bad. Like old-school Nintendo game, flat people cheering in the stands bad. Other than that, the rest of the movie looks good. It isn't demo material that you'll be showing off, but it won't disappoint.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is much like the video presentation in that it isn't flashy or but it gets the job done, especially for a lower budget film such as this.
Surrounds have a nice ambient activity to them as cheering crowds clap and holler for their favorite teams and players. LFE is light, but gets pumped up during the moments where the inspirational music swells. Dialogue is always clear, and directionality is well placed. The Mexican-inspired soundtrack is piped through each of the channels. While at times it's a bit too obvious, it still adds a bit of flavor to the movie.
There's not much more to this soundtrack. It's a pretty straightforward, talkative drama with some scenes that require a bit more oomph.
If you want to watch an inspirational tale about a group of underdogs who make it big, stick to movies like 'The Sandlot' or even 'Mighty Ducks.' There isn't anything about this "true" story that really resonates on screen. I'm sure the actual story of these kids winning the Little League World Series in 1957 was a big deal. I am not doubting that. What I am doubting is this movie's ability to convey the real emotion that the nation was feeling at that time, instead of sugar-coating it and feeding it to us in easily digestible spoonfuls of forced emotion and stilted dialogue. For people who are interested in 'The Perfect Game,' know that the audio and video are both par for the course. You'll be happy there. This one is a rental at best.