The Perfect Game [50 New-Old Movies for the 51st Year #33]

Mid-last year, I turned 50 years old!  And to add to all the real life goals and challenges that that brings, I’ve created at least one as it relates to movies and this blog–watch a film I’ve never seen before which came out in each year of my life (thus the “Old-New” terminology), and then write a bit about it.  This is Post #33.  Spoilers ahead.  

The Perfect Game

Directed by William Dear

Release Date:  April 16, 2010 (USA)
My age then:  39 years old

What it is about:  Aspiring baseball player César Faz becomes the coach for a new Little League team made up of poor children from Monterrey, Mexico in the 1950’s. They enter into the Little League World Series in the United States and against all odds have a series of winning games that leads them to victory, and for their starting pitcher Ángel Macías to throw the only perfect game (preventing the other team from getting any runners on base) in Little League championship history.

Starring Clifton Collins as César Faz, Cheech Marin as Padre Esteban (a priest who is closely connected to the team and the town), Jake T. Austin as Ángel Macías, Jansen Panettiere as Estaban Suárez (the team’s other pitcher), Patricia Manterola as Maria (a woman César is attracted to), John Cothran as Clarance Bell (a clergyman who beriends the team when their priest must return to Mexico), Louis Gossett Jr as Cool Papa Bell (a real-life old former player who assists the team), and Emilie de Ravin as a journalist assigned to the story.

My impressions of this movie before I watched it:  Similar to the last one of these posts that I wrote, I really didn’t know anything about the movie beyond what I wrote in my masterlist: “a true-story sports movie about Little League baseball.”

Reality: The Perfect Game isn’t a surprising movie at all. It’s built on a series of very familiar tropes–a sports team made up of unlikely underdogs, a colorful cast of kids, a disaffected and reluctant coach, a few personal problems scattered amongst the characters which need resolution by the time the movie is over, and a championship game climax. It all adds up to a predictable set of story beats within which this true story can unfold.

But the formula is mixed well thanks and turned into a likable final product. The direction is confident and avoids the excessive sentimentality that one might expect from something like this. The comedy comes from honest character interaction rather than the outright silliness that one associates with some other kid’s movies that deal with the same material. And the cast all do a nice job, particularly Cheech Marin as the local priest, and Louis Gossett Jr. as the real life baseball player Cool Papa Bell.

The Monterrey of the movie has a bit of a fairy-tale vibe to it, with some odd digital compositing in the wide shots of the town, and the whole place being a lot more backwater than the large industrial city that it was in real life at the time. But even given all that, the film does a good job immersing you into the community and the characters’ lives. So when the inevitable victory comes, one really is genuinely cheering for them.

A lot of the film’s drama has to do with the team dealing with racism in America in the 1950’s, something that the movie does quite well. In these days where we are becoming more sensitive about potentially lopsided depictions of such issues, there is little to complain about here. Like the characters, the issues are faced with a fair amount of authenticity, while still being appropriate for a movie for children.

So…when you get down to it, what did I think? It’s a little slow at times, and quite predictable, but it’s hard not to enjoy watching this Cinderella-story sports movie, and to be a bit uplifted by it.

See here for the Master List.

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