More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Awesome: 20%
Worth A Look: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 10%

1 review, 4 user ratings

Latest Reviews

Ambition by Jack Sommersby

Blackout by Jack Sommersby

Backfire by Jack Sommersby

Hit List, The (1993) by Jack Sommersby

Banker, The by Jack Sommersby

Boogey Man/The Devonsville Terror, The by Jack Sommersby

Truck Stop Women/Stunts by Jack Sommersby

Competition, The by Jack Sommersby

Hollywood Harry by Jack Sommersby

Zappa by Rob Gonsalves

subscribe to this feed

[] Buy posters from this movie
by Chris Parry

"Artist Quits Job, Plays Fastpitch Softball: The Movie"
3 stars

You can pretty much make a documentary about anybody, and if you do it the right way, it's going to be watchable. People, for the most part, are interesting, even when they're not, and Fastpitch director Jeremy Spear makes good use of that inalienable fact by making a commercial venture out of his decision to take a summer off to play some ball, simply by dragging a video camera around with him, talking to the people he meets, and editing the footage together to tell a story. It's not a great story, and it's not great footage, but it also won't leave you wanting to shove hot coals in your eyes, which ranks the film above reality TV, at least.

In his boyhood years at Yale, Jeremy Spear played shortstop for his college baseball team and nearly went all the way, losing the final game of the NCAA year by a single run after his pitcher had thrown 12 shutout innings. But when the college season was all over, Spear wasn't drafted by a pro team, and thus the real world came a-calling in the form of... art.

Jeremy Spear is a conceptual artist with something missing in his world. We know this because he tells us. In fact, pretty much everything we know about Spear comes from his mouth, because he's holding a camera much of the time, showing us the inside world of fastpitch softball, a formerly barnstorming rural America sport which has now drifted into sideshow amusement territory. Yes, there are still teams that go from city to city looking for a game, crashing on couches and in fleabag motels, hitting the road every second day looking for competition, but the crowds are small, the games mostly meaningless, and the pay... let's just say you're going to do a lot of eating from the Value Meal menu.

But it's baseball, or at least something close to baseball, so Spear decides to abandon his conceptual art world 5-to-9 existence for a season and go relive the glory years in Ashland Ohio, nearly twelve years after he'd last swung a bat in anger. And, oddly enough, he sucks. In trying to cope with a ball that both dips AND rises, Spear turns himself into a 'lefty slapper' so that his spot in the batting order doesn't turn into a gaping hole, and relies on his fielding and speed to get by. But that isn't the real story, or at least, it's not the story Spear really wants to tell. Instead, he wants to tell us what it's like to play fastpitch in America today.

Along the way he meets a nice range of characters, from the ever-smiling (and sleeping) Shane Hunuhunu, a New Zealand Maori slugger who is happy to be half a world from home as long as he's got a nice place to sleep and a full plate in front of him, to psychotic nutbar Bruce Franklin, who punched a watercooler during his last college game, snapped his wrist, and duly killed his chances of a pro career, something he's clearly still very pissed about.

There's also the hilariously fake-haired junk mail king Peter Porelli Jr (who of course just had to name his kid Peter Porcelli III), who spends a good chunk of his wealth on a team with a half million dollar a year budget, and steals away the best players off every other team so his Tampa Bay Smokers can dominate the annual Fastpitch World Series. He plays out the figure of the villain quite nicely in Fastpitch, which no doubt strokes his considerable ego. While his team is winning, the yelled insults from the fans bounce off him as if he's wearing a teflon uniform, and when they lose... well, he just goes out and buys a new stock of star players.

Or at least... he did. There's a far more interesting story involving Porcelli than anything showign in Fastpitch, though admittedly most of it has happened since the film was completed. Porcelli's Smokers won two world Fastpitch titles, but when it came to light that his junk mail company was scamming thousands of people, sending them vacation coupons that were essentially worthless, which recipients had to pay $25 to 'activate', Porcelli claimed Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, owing millions to his suppliers. Ultimately, he admitted to no wrongdoing, instead signing a promise to not engage in similar practices in the future... but a handful of years (and several new company names) later, he was back in the bankruptcy courts, this time owing millions more, with the FBI charging him with running credit card scams and bank frauds that bilked hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

Porcelli is a scumbag - the lowest type of human being. His company would buy lists of people who had been declined credit from credit card companies, then he would send those credit cards and debit cards which, of course, had to be activated (for a fee) before they could be used. Only problem was, the cards were fake, and once Porcelli had authority to take money out of customers bank accounts, he would take a monthly fee as well. To scam people who are already down on their financial luck is heinous, and for the sort of animal that would do that to (at it's peak, Porcelli's scam was drawing 5,000 complaints a month) to society's most needy deserves nothing short of public humiliation and banishment from polite society.

But Porcelli hasn't had that sort of treatment. In fact, when the heat was on, Porcelli fled the US, started a team in Calgary Canada, and is now entrenched in the highest levels of Fastpitch society, despite his criminal behavior. Owing millions of dollars and facing charges of fraud, there has been no comeuppance for Porcelli, because no matter where his money comes from, no matter how filthy it may be, it's the only money Fastpitch softball is going to see anytime soon, and thus he is welcomed with open arms.

That's the real story of Fastpitch that Jeremy Spear missed - not the quaint mullet-headed characters in the Midwest who put their lives on hold to play games, but the depths that people will go to suck at the devil's teat. Sure, professional sports are full of people who care about nothing but the dollar and themselves, but that a desperate and dying sport like Fastpitch can sell its soul to the nylon-haired likes of a career fraud like Porcelli indicates that there truly is no soul left in sport - professional or otherwise.

Fastpitch does have a heart, and it is admittedly easy to watch, but there's nothing behind it. The cameras aren't rolling for the 'big game' of Spear's season, they stopped short of investigating where Porcelli's dirty laundry lies, they get no deeper into any of the people involved than the occasional funny moment or lapse in decorum, and even the abundant natural beauty of the midwest is given short shrift, relegated to a few out-the-window-as-we-drive shots and the occasional sleepy town vista.

There is only one person in Fastpitch that really comes across as a selfless sport-first individual, and that's Ashland coach Nick McCurry. A lifetime player and coach, and a guy that spends his own hard-earned cash just keeping his small town team alive and marginally competitive, there isn't a single moment where he puts himself first in this film. Everyone else, however, from director to players to the humblest Native American pitcher, eventually grabs for the cash, or for a championship opportunity, leaving those that got them there and cared about them way, way behind. It's a sad state of affairs, but it's telling that to get to that you need to look way deeper than the film Spear has created.

Oh, and just so you know, Nick McCurry finally succumbed to the continual loss of his best players to teams with money by disbanding the team he'd kept together for over twenty years. Best as I can tell, he now plays old-timer ball for teams as far afield as Texas, Minnesota and Maryland, and he was last seen coaching a team from Virginia. I suspect he wouldn't spit on Peter Porcelli, or those that share his air, if he was on fire.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 12/05/04 08:19:38
[printer] printer-friendly format  

User Comments

11/25/09 Annette Cochran It was a execellent movie 5 stars
10/04/05 ball player excellent....wish there were more films about our game 5 stars
12/17/04 Ken Cenerelli Somewhat interesting - parts were filmed in my hometown of Kitchener-Waterloo, ON. 3 stars
8/26/00 Piece O. Shitt Never before has a film been so crappy! 1 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  DVD: 26-Jun-2001



Directed by
  Jeremy Spear

Written by

  Jeremy Spear
  Shane Hunuhunu

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast