★ ★ ★
Starring Matthew Lillard, Dean Cain and Annabeth Gish. Written by John Bella and Tim Cavanaugh. Directed by Oz Scott.
It's been a while since any director's taken a stab at making a family baseball movie, and for obvious reasons – the expectations set by past successful movies like The Sandlot and Angels in the Outfield are near impossible to meet. In turn, we are left with a shortage of sports movies for children. So while Scott's Home Run Showdown isn't quite the next Sandlot, it's definitely refreshing to see progress towards the revival of this genre.
The rich green foliage and grassy plains of Milford, Michigan set the backdrop for this small town comedy about a boy named Lori (Kirk) who, in order to impress his father, needs to make it to the annual home run showdown. This seems an impossibility when coach Rico Deluca (Cain) cuts him from his team. After a strange turn of events and a lot of scheming, Lorenzo and some of the other rejected players find themselves playing on a team headed by Rico's brother, Joey (Lillard). A passionate rivalry between siblings opens the door to new friendships, new competition and a fierce battle for the championship at the home run showdown. In the process, Lori learns something about love, integrity, sacrifice and above all, team work.
Striving greatly to keep a young audience involved, this movie sometimes misses its adult audience completely and feels overwhelmingly toned down, most of the jokes being something that only kids will appreciate – fat jokes and playful rivalry are prevalent throughout. Lillard, as usual, steals the spotlight with his boyish antics and animated performance – he's a natural with the child actors and creates nice chemistry between the characters which spruces up an otherwise ordinary story.
With the dwindling volume of live action movies for kids, Home Run Showdown feels authentic and, in some ways, necessary to keep a good balance with the animated films. If for no other reason, you'll be happy you saw this movie simply for the feel – it brings you back to childhood summers spent in Michigan and realistically mimics its endearing small town vibe, evoking the type of emotion and nostalgia that a baseball movie should.