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Overall Rating

Awesome: 16.92%
Worth A Look: 9.23%
Pretty Bad: 7.69%
Total Crap: 30.77%

5 reviews, 35 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"There's No Crying In Baseball"
1 stars

Last year when Chicago Mayor Richard Daley called a press conference to condemn the latest Keanu Reeves movie in the city, I could have sworn he was referring to the just opened “The Watcher”. In that film, Keanu played a serial killer hunting down women, potentially casting an ill-spirit on the image of our glorious city. Much to my surprise, it was not Keanu’s portrayal of a mass murderer that upset our Mayor but his participation in a little league baseball movie called “Hardball”. Obtaining an early copy of the script, Mr. Daley was upset at the foul language and the amount of it used by the young black children of the Projects. Now, just over a year to the day of that briefing, one wonders if the Mayor could have just waited (like anyone who protests movies) to see the actual film because profanities is the least of what’s upsetting about this film.

The story is based on Daniel Coyle’s non-fiction book, “Hardball: A Season In the Projects”, although “loosely based on” would still be a trivial assessment of what’s been translated to the big screen. The book told the story of the founding of the league in a neighborhood where shooting deaths were commonplace. Bob Muzikowski, a former addict-turned-devout Christian, and Al Carter, a Department of Human Services employee specializing in gang relations were the joint benefactors of the project in the projects. The two men (one white, one black) were constantly at odds about the league with Carter even accused of misappropriating funds from the project. All this and the sounds of gunfire surrounding a group of young boys (ages 9-12) who just wanted to play baseball. Sounds like a great idea for a movie, right? It is, but Hardball didn’t use it.

In this “adaptation” Keanu Reeves plays Conor O'Neill, a Chicago ticket scalper with a massive gambling problem. Dodging the baseball bats of local bookies, Conor turns to friend, Jimmy Fleming (Mike McGlone, replaying his insensitive stockbroker from “She’s the One”) to get him out of debt. Instead, his bud offers him $500 a week to coach an inner-city little league team, specifically so he doesn’t have to. Conor is reluctant, but desperate, and accepts the gig.

The Kekambas are your usual ragtag of bad news bears and mighty ducks and they sure can’t play baseball. Conor keeps himself on the bench during their early practice sessions, but springs into action to teach a lesson to the one trash talker on the team. Not a bad scene, yet it curiously remains as the only real interaction Conor has as a coach other than making than the gameday lineup. He teaches them no fundamentals and we never see them make gradual improvements. Through the miracle of the Tatum O’Neal Maneuver, the Kekambas get themselves a new pitcher (with the help of the music of Notorious B.I.G.) and become superstars. This instantaneous effect with no viewable cause can also be witnessed later when all the Kekamba spectators instantly know the words to Biggie’s “Big Poppa” and starts chanting their pitcher into a curveball fury. Whatever happened to “Hey Hey Hey Goodbye”?

This transformation from zeroes to heroes on the baseball diamond is just a glimmer of this movie suffering from roving blackouts. We get a series of scenes that setup potential issues or resolutions, but very few of them payoff and those that do have no viable reason to. Life away from the field for the kids isn’t shied away from, but the game never develops the kind of hope release these boys should be experiencing. School issues in the form of comely teacher and potential love interest, Elizabeth Wilkes (Diane Lane), are brought to the attention of Conor. He later shows up to class (in a suit prepared for flooding) but what he actually does is left to our imagination.

The filmmakers have also asked us to suspend disbelief in a scene that should insult Chicagoans from the North and the Southsides. Conor decides to take the boys to their first baseball game, one that’s been advertised twice on his radio as a Cubs/White Sox affair. They get to the stadium, melodramatically walk out of the dark tunnel into the field area and…..wait a second…..that’s not Wrigley Field! It’s not even Comiskey. We never see ivy or a big giant scoreboard, just the infield, a bunch of blue paint and Sammy Sosa in a non-denominational neutral uniform. Even when Conor places wagers on crucial Chicago Bulls games and watches them on TV, one might think he has the wrong channel as not only is he not looking at the United Center, but who are those people on the court? They’re not wearing Bulls uniforms and neither team looks associated with the NBA.

Perhaps the filmmakers were given a lack of support in the city, thanks in part to certain press conferences, but that’s no excuse for trying to fake authenticity without any trickery or CGI whatsoever. In the spirit of faking such authenticity, no humor is lost on the perfect timing of a little league coach (D.B. Sweeney in the Vic Morrow role) questioning the birth certificate of one of the Kekambas or getting another to remove his headphones during gameplay (shades of the Arthur Rhodes “earring” incident).

But nothing can prepare you for the trivialized third act containing a tragedy so forced, so written, so poorly handled that its liable to make you angry if your emotions aren’t stirred so easily. After all there’s supposed to be “no crying in baseball” (Field of Dreams and The Pride of the Yankees are exceptions), but Hardball lays it on pretty thick but cutting away from the resolution of the climactic “big game” only to flashback to it during a memorial service. The way this is edited not only sets us up for easy tears, but frivolously reduces the calamitous act to an insulting slap in the face to those who have and continue to suffer such injustices.

Parents be warned, this isn’t the cutesy kids movie the trailers suggest. Heartwarming and hopeful, maybe, but also dark and unpleasant. About two-thirds of the movie lulled me into believing that maybe a tougher story was being told here over and above any potential wackiness of the kids’ sports bloopers. Keanu Reeves actually does some nice work as Conor, not shying away from any of his harmful vices, but is it supposed to be a sign of growth that Conor uses the Kekambas name as his betting password with a new bookie? Screenwriter John Gatins goes 0-for-2 this year (after the Freddie Prinze Jr. baseball debacle “Summer Catch”) not to mention starring as the lead in 1995’s Leprechaun 3. Judging by Gatins’ complete lack of injecting any kind of baseball knowledge into his scripts, he should go back to acting because leprechauns are the only little people he should be working with.

Dennis Miller once said “why hate somebody based solely on the color of their skin, when if you take the time to get to know them, there are so many more valid reasons to hate someone.” However, race relations is something Hardball never has the equipment to bring up. Either worried by a Chicago Daley or the pressure to market down an originally rated “R” movie to a “PG-13”, Hardball becomes yet another candy-coated Hollywood concoction of real-life events and I’m personally starting a campaign to ban director Brian Robbins (Varsity Blues, Ready to Rumble) for life from Chicago. I counted at least nine times when the “F” word was mouthed by characters, yet a different word comes out in an ADR session not worthy of a USA network’s presentation of Scarface. As a result one has to take pause and really think about what is to be considered offensive to moviegoers. Personally, I get offended by bad, manipulative filmmaking and if we are going to be so stirred up by the mouth of babes spouting words that hold no malicious content except for the context that we have associated with them, then we deserve movies like Hardball, which shy away from reality in order to appease a mass audience.

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originally posted: 09/13/01 07:24:05
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User Comments

8/26/13 DB Rent "The Matrix" or "Point Break" 2 stars
4/03/13 Jerome Erik Childress - its called HIP HOP!!! it's the PROJECTS. aint nobody singin hey hey shit 3 stars
8/21/07 Quigley Keanu Reeves actually did a great job. Stories like this are really inspiring. 5 stars
3/20/07 David Cohen The most important thing for this film is not showing up 1 stars
2/18/07 Nick Maday Blah. Plus Keanu Reeves is pretty annoying. 3 stars
7/16/06 Cara Your reviewer obviously hasn't seen real life for these kids-the movie hit the mark 4 stars
11/19/04 Dominic Farrow It was an fantastic movie it should be a part 2 5 stars
8/23/04 Michelle i loved it but i love any Keanu Reeves movies 4 stars
1/10/04 kaz heartfelt movie..great performance from Reeves 4 stars
7/07/03 Terrance Rogers It was funny the rest of that day my son kept saying "I'm G-baby" 5 stars
4/06/03 ksdm sdasd funny 5 stars
3/22/03 Jack Sommersby Cliched, uninspired material undermines charming perfs from Reeves and Lane. 2 stars
3/12/03 Blabity blah I've seen better film on teeth. 1 stars
5/10/02 J Keanu wasn't great (to put it mildly), but the kids sure were. An underrated movie. 4 stars
4/24/02 Film Guy ok it really wasnt that bad. Or that good 3 stars
4/16/02 Katie Murphy Awesome 5 stars
3/29/02 Alexis Rivera I love the movie and Kofy Evens/mike perkins 5 stars
3/12/02 Veronica Foxx -The Raven-Haired Temptress There's no crying in baseball, but there was plenty when I saw this. Disgusting slop. 1 stars
10/24/01 Crystal Mitchell A great movie, for all you who have seen and thinks it sucks, you don't shit about kids! 5 stars
10/23/01 spaceworm Better movies can be seen by you without trying too hard. 2 stars
10/20/01 The Alter Ego Manipulative, formulaic piece of moose shit. Keanu sucks big, hairy ass. 1 stars
10/12/01 Leroy pg 13??? howd they pull this off! 3 stars
10/05/01 Person Emotional effect overplayed, Good child talent. 2 stars
10/02/01 Kirk Who cares what the movie is about! It's Keanu! :-) 5 stars
10/02/01 RK Keauna 2 stars
10/01/01 Studmaster Watch out, it is a sad movie. 4 stars
9/21/01 Naneki Dauer Fabulous movie!! Keanu was outstanding ( as always) as were the kids. 5 stars
9/20/01 Jody Keanu & kids were great, script could be better, a movie for entertainment not awards 4 stars
9/19/01 olgi wolgie oh my gosh it is sooo awsome, keanu, baby g, i want to take the two of them home 5 stars
9/19/01 angel renninger i thought that was the worst movie i have ever seen even orse then "remember the titans".ve 1 stars
9/17/01 Ashley i loved it 5 stars
9/17/01 spaceworm Okay, I shed a tear, but I had a lot saved up fron the week... 3 stars
9/13/01 ron20003 A manipulative, Pre-Fabricated heap of smelly hokum. AVOID IT!! 1 stars
9/11/01 Sherman Reeves should sit silently in a closet until Matrix2 1 stars
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  14-Sep-2001 (PG-13)



Directed by
  Matthew Robbins

Written by
  John Gatins

  Keanu Reeves
  Diane Lane
  D.B. Sweeney
  Michael Jordan
  Trevor Morgan
  John Hawkes

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