If ever there was a movie that showcased the difference between "Based on a True Story" and actual reality, William Dear's "The Perfect Game" would stand as a prime example. While a serviceable entertainment that is completely expected and thoroughly non-challenging, the film doesn't feel the least bit authentic. Yes, it has heart. Yes, it aims to be a crowd pleaser. Yes, apparently many people love it. This genial and unassuming movie is family friendly and its deficiencies are easy to overlook--especially by younger viewers. What's not to love? Utilizing every established underdog cliche from every routine sports story, the film hits all the beats necessary to be comfortable and safe. Kids may well love it. But it takes a fantastic, and almost epic true story, and drains the realness out of history to become a lightweight comedic fable.
The movie chronicles the formation of a misfit Little League team in Monterrey Mexico. In 1957, this motley crew crossed the border, challenged much larger and more experienced teams, and ascended to the Little League World Series. It was the first time an International team qualified for the World Series and the only time in history a perfect game was pitched during this competition. It is an absolutely stunning story! Had it been played straight, this might have made a powerful biographical narrative. These kids challenged all expectations and restrictions to be world champions. In real life, they came from an existence of poverty and hardship and faced bitter prejudice and overt racism. Don't worry, though, in "The Perfect Game" these are minor issues and mild lessons to be learned.
The boys are remarkably precocious and modern. Their sass and attitudes reflect current sensibilities, but have little to do with the actual time period of 1957 or their culture. The coach (a nice Clifton Collins Jr.) is saddled with a strained comedic side plot--his attempts at romance are remarkably inept. The boys are certainly wise and witty on the subject of wooing the ladies. Nothing in Monterrey feels remotely real in its tone. Any unpleasantness (such as the aforementioned racism) is slight and easily solvable--or, at least, not worth revisiting in this feel-good saga. I didn't hate "The Perfect Game." As a work of fiction, it's a pleasing enough concoction. But the true and incredible story is done a disservice by this superficial portrait. Predictable and enjoyable--but lacking in genuine authenticity--I know I'm in the minority. I just wanted to experience the real story of triumph and not just another exercise in underdog cliche. KGHarris, 7/11.