HARDBALL, directed by Brian Robbins (VARSITY BLUES) and written by John Gatins
(SUMMER CATCH), contains more miraculous conversions than a revival. An awkward
blend of THE BAD NEWS BEARS with BOYZ N THE HOOD, the movie strains credibility
with every plot twist.
Set in the rough environment of an inner city ghetto where the kids are shot at,
beaten up and offered drugs, it stars Keanu Reeves as a gambler and a loser
named Conor O'Neill. Conor is an almost completely despicable character until,
in the last act, he makes his saintly transformation. Up until then, he is a
nervous and jumpy guy whose only interest in coaching baseball is so that the
bookies with baseball bats don't kill him before he hits it big with his
basketball bets and can pay off his debts. Reeves plays an unsympathetic
character and plays him badly, so his fans might want to skip this film. In a
throwaway part, Diane Lane is given nothing to do as Conor's almost
Since Conor can earn five hundred a week, he agrees to coach a little kids'
baseball team. They are such trash talkers, trash mumblers to be more precise,
that it is easy to see why the movie originally got an R rating. The team is so
bad that a 16-to-1 loss is cause for minor celebration. Although Conor does
little more than take attendance and lean against the fence, the kids
miraculously learn the game of baseball without anyone teaching them. And just
asking them to stop the bad language is all that is needed for them to cleanup
their act. Although he pays the kids almost no attention, they are somehow
inspired by his surly presence. "Don't you think I might have something better
to do than worry about you guys and your little baseball team," he tells them on
one of the many times when he abandons them.
The last act is a tear-jerker that makes the movie questionable for kids under
12 who may be significantly traumatized by it. You have to give the film this.
Through a twist of fate, it is strangely topical. One of the kids is thrown off
of the team because it is discovered that his mother has doctored his birth
certificate so that he appears to be younger than he really is.
HARDBALL runs 1:40. It is rated PG-13 for "thematic elements, language and some
violence," and would be acceptable for kids around 12 and up.
My son Jeffrey, age 12, thought it was a really good movie and gave it ***. His
favorite character was G-Baby (DeWayne Warren).
Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes