Underdogs? Check. Troubled souls looking for redemption? Check. Formulaic sports story? Check with bonus montage points. Cheech Marin as a priest? Yup. Enjoyable? Oddly, yes. William Dear’s The Perfect Game isn’t exactly original. But it is a comforting baseball movie that shouldn’t offend many.
The sports landscape is filled with unlikely success stories. The sports movie landscape seems to have even more. Based on a true story, The Perfect Game follows a group of poor, young boys from Monterry, Mexico who would come together and form one of the game’s first international Little League powerhouses. They’re led by Cesar Faz (Clifton Collins Jr.), a pitcher who with derailed Major League aspirations.
The young team comes together with rag-tag origins and no experience with organized baseball. But with lots of hand work, tons of faith and a little bit of luck, things take off. Pretty soon, the Monterry team finds itself in America, taking on teams that are bigger, stronger and have nicer uniforms. Success continues to roll their way and the journey continues well beyond their visitors visas.
The Perfect Game is a lot like The Bad News Bears without the cussing, smoking and crude behavior. But it has many of the same themes, structure and cute factor. It’s simple but it works.
Dear does a great job of focusing on the characters, both those on the field and those off of it. The kids, the coaches and the parents all have needs, flaws and quirks. And by the end of the film, those needs and flaws are addressed giving the film more depth than it might otherwise deserve.
The film is incredibly predictable — even if you’re like me and don’t know the history of the team and their lasting significance. It is extremely formulaic, which makes for some horrible scenes.
Much more frequent are the heartwarming moments. Because Dear lets you get to know the characters, it’s easy to care for them and overlook the fact that you’ve seen similar scenes dozens of times before.
The Perfect Game proves that you don’t always have to reach for lofty heights to work. It’s certainly not a classic. But it is a fun non-classic filled with likable characters and a solid story arc. It’s a simple pleasure for those times when that’s all you need.