Although the current weather is awful and rainy and crappy, spring has sprung and it’s time for baseball. In honor of the start of a brand new season you should all go out and rent movies about the All-American sport. Baseball is, after all, our national pastime, but if you don’t enjoy the crack of the bat and the smell of hot dogs in the air you can at least revel in some of the other important parts of baseball. The most important being that there are actually many good movies about the sport that do not star Kevin Costner.
“The Natural” is one of those movies, and stars Robert Redford. The film is set in 1939, which seems to be one of Redford’s favorite time periods, witness two early American period pieces, “A River Runs Through It” which he directed, along with “The Legend of Bagger Vance.”
“The Natural” is a heartwarming tale about a 35-year-old baseball player who gets a second chance in the major leagues. He comes from nowhere to save the team with a mysterious past and a bat made out of a lightning struck tree. You can’t get any sappier than that, but it works. Robert Redford is a wonderful actor and a friend to independent film. So, it would behoove you to see this movie, just because.
How much Charlie Sheen has contributed to the world of independent film, however, is relatively unknown. Luckily, he did make a good baseball movie before he completely lost all credibility and turned to a life of constant partying and hookers. “Major League” defies all logic when it stands out as a good movie. It doesn’t have any smart lines or interesting female characters, but it does have an idiotically funny storyline about a pitcher who can’t see without glasses! How crazy is that? He needs to wear glasses so he can throw the ball straight! What will they think of next?
Maybe a story about a guy who builds a baseball diamond in the middle of his corn field in order to save his farm? The Kevin Costner opus “Field of Dreams” stands out as a beautiful film. I know I said “no Costner,” but you have to admit that the only movies he is tolerable in are baseball movies.
He uses that special something in “Bull Durham “ as well. This is a story of a pitcher who can’t seem to get control of his million dollar arm. (Do we sense a recurring theme here?)
Costner’s character is hired to teach the young buck, played hilariously by Tim Robbins, how to pitch. He also has to contend with the biggest local fan and “worshiper of the church of baseball,” played by Susan Sarandon. Sarandon “hooks up with one guy a season” to generally help them out so they can move on to the major leagues. This altruism isn’t what Costner has in mind, so you get a lot of sexual tension and great chemistry with Sarandon and both of the men.
“For Love of the Game” cannot really be put in the same category as Costner’s previous baseball movies, but it does have some very good qualities. This movie deals less with getting there as with graciously knowing when it’s time to go.
In addition to these movies watch “Eight Men Out” and don’t forget the girls in “A League of Their Own.” You can forgo all of these if you can get your hands on the Ken Burns’ “Baseball” documentary. That is incredible work and shows the brilliance of Burns’ brand of filmmaking. Enjoy!