The first rule of any baseball movie is that the guys cast to star in it have to look like they can play. And in “Home Run,” Scott Elrod had the build, the swagger and the sweet swing of a big leaguer. That makes him and this thin tale of twelve step redemption credible and watchable, if nothing else.
Elrod, a character actor who played a hunk hired to perform the fake film script in “Argo,” is a big league slugger with alcohol problems and daddy issues.
The booze we can see in his everyday routine, dumping out the soft drink, filling the cup with vodka. And the daddy problems we’re shown in a prologue, when a young Cory Brand had to “be a man” and take fastballs from his drunken, abusive father.
It all blows up that day he’s drunkenly called out after hitting what he thought was an inside-the-park home run. The tirade he tosses injures a batboy, his own nephew, it turns out, and earns him an eight week suspension.
That forces his agent (Vivica A. Fox, terrific) to get creative. She packs him off to his hometown. But another screwup — a DUI — adds to the mess.
“Why don ‘t you just SHOOT Bambi, next time?” she wants to know.
Now, he’s got to go to 12 step “Celebrate Recovery” meetings. And he has to coach his brother’s Little League team.
There’s a disapproving sister-in-law (Nicole Leigh), a few star struck Little League parents, and a fellow coach (Dorian Brown) who happens to have been Cory’s high school sweetheart.
And she has a son (Charles Henry Wyson) in need of a father figure.
“Home Run” is an utterly conventional faith-based film built around Cory’s coming to grips with his demons, making amends for his wrongs and finding religion. The cast does what it can to enliven that, but the twelve step meetings are too familiar to play as fresh and the film’s leaden pace only makes us wonder how long it will be before we hear “The Serenity Prayer.”
You know it, I know, and if you’ve ever seen a movie about recovery, you can recite it from memory.
“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,” etc.
The trouble with that over-familiarity is it robs Cory’s journey of any emotional punch it might pack. The script lacks on-the-field drama as well, with Cory have no real nuggets of wisdom to teach the kids about America’s Passtime.
But the scenes between Elrod and Fox crackle, and the movie never goes far wrong so long as Cory’s going wrong — on and off the field. It’s too bad the muted “Home Run” didn’t take its own advice about being daring and inventive.
“Nothing great happens when you hold back.”
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some mature thematic material
Cast: Scott Elrod, Dorian Brown, Vivica A. Fox
Credits: Directed David Boyd, written by Brian Brightly, , Candace Lee, Melanie Wistar,Eric Newman . A Samuel L. Goldwyn release.
Running time: 1:33