So someone took the screenplay for 'Mighty Ducks,' crossed out the word hockey, and scribbled in "baseball." I'm assuming that's how 'Home Run Showdown' was born. There's really no other explanation.
Matthew Lillard takes over the Gordon Bombay role as Joey Deluca. Like Bombay, Joey had a brief stint in the big leagues and then found himself thrown out. In Joey's case it was for fighting. Now Joey lives in his hometown and works at his father's bar. Joey has a brother, Rico (Dean Cain), who was also in the majors and is now one of those people who doesn't know he's a has-been. He still gets enough cheers from the young kids in town and he lives off it. To complete his character he owns a car dealership and is a douchebag. They're laying it on pretty thick aren't they? Oh, and he coaches the town's best little league baseball team, but he's taught them to play just as mean and as unfair as he is. You know, like every major opponent the Ducks faced over their three-movie career.
The town's little league needs one more coach so they can field an even six teams. Joey is volunteered by his father to coach a group of rag-tag kids that no one wanted on their team. Of course Joey has been hardened against the sport so he doesn't care if they win or lose. There's even a Charlie Conway character in Lorenzo (Kyle Kirk). A kid who wants to win, but just doesn't have the stuff to get picked to be on the best team.
If you wanted to know, yes, it's just as painful to watch as it is to read about. I mean they've changed a few things here and there, but this is 'The Mighty Ducks' on grass. They even get a pudgy Goldberg-like kid, who farts, to play catcher.
The kids must come together under their new coach and win. This means a healthy dose of montages as the group learns to like each other, then play as a team, then win.
The real problem here is that the movie isn't endearing enough to be enjoyed as a blatant rip-off. Since the story is so one-note, the characters so flat, and the kids so underutilized, it's hard to ever get over the fact that this is the same exact story we saw in 1992 played out with hockey sticks instead of bats.
There isn't a moment in 'Home Run Showdown' where the movie breaks away from its "inspiration" and tries to stand on its own two legs. The biggest difference in story here is that Lorenzo's father is in prison and Lorenzo wants his father to see him on TV. The way to do it is be on one of the three best little league teams so at the end of the season he can field balls at the big home run showdown that's coming to town.
I really hate to poo-poo a light-hearted movie about kids who just want to play ball. It's just too hard to get over the fact that this is the exact same outline to 'The Mighty Ducks' right down to a moment where the team changes their uniforms to better accurately capture the spirit of themselves. 'Home Run Showdown' isn't even fit for an afternoon airing on the ABC Family Channel and that's saying a lot.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is an Image Entertainment release. The movie comes on a 25GB Blu-ray Disc and is packaged in a standard keepcase. It's marked for Region A use.
'Home Run Showdown' was filmed on 35mm film which does give its high-def, 1080p, presentation a cinematic feel. It's too bad, however, that the end result is a murky, flat presentation that lacks depth and clarity.
The entire film is soft on the details. Even close-ups are hazy and don't offer much in the way of fine detail. You may see some individual hairs here and there, and a couple smile lines and creases along furrowed brows, but pores are non-existent. And even those details I just mentioned are pretty gauzy to begin with.
Shadows are flat and lack dimension. Crushing is a big problem here. Lighter areas of the image dance with digital noise. Errant flecks, specks, and even a few bigger pieces of debris hamper the image as they pop up with frequent regularity. Contrast is iffy, skintones appear pale. Banding can be seen in a few scenes. This presentation has a lot of noticeable problems and they never really get better as the movie goes along. Also, there is a very strange part that happens in the middle of the film right after Lorenzo accidentally breaks a window by hitting a ball through it. The commissioner of the league appears and walks in from the left side of the window and into view, and then for a split second it appears if the movie rewinds itself and plays it back again. The movement is sudden, almost like the film stuttered just for a second. It's obvious though. I played it back three or four times to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing, and I was.
The audio is a little better; not by much though. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track does produce clear dialogue for the most part. It gives the film's light-hearted score a nice place to play. The rear speakers are woefully underused though. Especially when the kids find themselves at a huge home run showdown spectacle, screaming crowds, kids clamoring for baseballs that didn't make it out of the park, and the rear speakers stay pretty silent for the most part. Any ambient sound is rather light and never makes you feel like you're in the middle of a ball park.
The movie is light and airy to begin with so it's easy to forgive the audio mix for being the same way, but when the sound should've really made an impact toward the end, it more or less whimpers away its chance.
There are no special features on this disc.
No one tell Disney about 'Home Run Showdown,' because the stories are so stinking similar they may have grounds to sue. Of course I'm joking, but not about how similar this movie is to 'Mighty Ducks.' It's like they took that script, substituted a hockey rink for a baseball diamond, and then just tacked on a few pages where the kids get to go to a home run derby at the end, hoping that would make it just a bit more different. Perhaps if the characters were more fun, or the acting the least bit believable, the movie might have had a chance. Nothing like that happens though. Dragging down this release even further is the bad video presentation and the so-so audio mix. You really shouldn't bother with 'Home Run Showdown' even if you're a sucker for underdog sports movies.