The most interesting thing in “Twelve” is not what this Little League “big game” movie is all about.
The boy who longs to make it to The Little League World Series has been cut from the team in the Connecticut town his family’s just moved to. His dad (Erik Heger) has chewed on the coach who (unfairly, of course) didn’t pick his boy for the all star team from their league that will play other all-star teams for the chance to advance through various tourneys towards Williamsport, Pa. and the LLWS.
Fear not, Dad says. There’s another league you can try out for nearby. THEY’LL be sure to recognize your talent.
And just for a moment, the kid, who shares his father’s obsession for baseball glory, says the right thing, a sentence that puts whatever Dad is doing to the family, his own career and his two baseball-stars-in-the-making sons into perspective.
“I don’t want to have to move again.”
We get a glimpse of Dad’s shortcuts, financial and professional and personal “issues.”
“I’m a loser, for crying out loud! I don’t want the boys to have a failure for a father!
But those visit-a-shrink issues get lost in the shuffle in this bland, generic and shallow boy’s baseball dream movie.
The messaging — that if you don’t get picked “it wasn’t fair,” that rejection isn’t a part of life, that surrendering the family’s stability to living vicariously through your kids is OK, as are bragging and cockiness, so long as it’s just the OTHER kid who’s throwing beanballs — is problematic.
Which isn’t papered over by the fact that this is about an obsessive year-long pursuit of “getting even” with the coach that cut you, and coach’s oft-berated punk son.
Kyle (Wyatt Ralff) can play any position, and short and scrawny or not, he can hit to any field and hit for power. Just don’t ask him to pitch. He won’t. There’s a secret reason why, which we can guess. Because we’ve seen more than one baseball movie in our lives.
Dad thinks his own ballplaying years were hampered by not wanting it enough, but just giving up.
“Dad, can you make sure I don’t give up?”
The family’s move from Massachusetts to Connecticut means a new school and new team for older brother Xavier (Liam Obergfoll), who hints that conflict with their “played some college ball” dad could be on the horizon.
“I think it’s about time I started paying a little more attention to girls, and a little less to baseball!”
Dad’s not having it. And the writer-director chickens out on “conflict” and lets Xavier switch his nickname to “X” and get the prettiest girl in school AND star for the baseball team AND — when he has no more time to help coach his kid brother — has a girlfriend (Lexi Collins) who blackmails him into helping the kid.
Not that Kyle needs much. Dad is a constant presence in the batting cage, at the diamond, managing the diet of his 12-year-old on a year-long quest.
“Get some protein in you…Doesn’t matter what it takes like. We’ve just gotta get it in your system. Rocky drank raw eggs!”
Dad rents an apartment in a nearby town (even though he’s a bust as a 42 year-old entry-level salesman). But gosh darn it, there’s no conflict with his wife (Jennifer Mudge), the lads’ mother. Because conflict, the stuff of drama, is confined to the diamond in this direct-to-video project.
“He’s never going to be 12 again! We have to give him a chance to live his dream!”
Hardcore Little League parents are rolling their eyes at my nitpicking over “messaging” in the movie. America isn’t really about “sportsmanship” any more. And making a professional athlete takes obsessive parents. We know that.
But while the game scenes have Little League speed to them (save for the absurd, physiology and physics-defying pitching speeds), there isn’t much pop to the way they’re filmed and edited.
Shortchanging EVERY other player on the teams save for Evil Coach (Jeremy Holm) and Evil Coach’s bean-balling, trash-talking son (Vincent Pavonetti) narrows the focus and drains the film of potential color and humor around the edges.
Somebody — the writer-director, the stage parents of a child actor kid — named their player “Truffaut” on his jersey, after the French director of the classic of traumatized childhood, “The 400 Blows.”
What’s up with that?
It’s not mocking to say writer-director Steve Grimaldi is “no Truffaut.” Because who is?
But he plainly had neither the interest nor the talent to recognize what would make this movie stand out, give the movie an edge or make this movie watchable enough to be commercial. As desperate as we all are to see a little baseball, the little baseball with a movie wrapped around it that is “Twelve” isn’t going to fill the bill.
MPAA Rating: G
Cast: Wyatt Ralff, Erik Heger, Jennifer Mudge, Liam Obergfoll, Lexi Collins and Jeremy Holm.
Credits: Written and directed by Steve Grimaldi. An Indie Rights release.
Running time: 1:32