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Little Big League

Rated PG, 119 min. Directed by Andrew Scheinman. Starring Luke Edwards, Timothy Busfield, John Ashton, Ashley Crow, Kevin Dunn, Jason Robards.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., July 1, 1994

What's up with movies about kids and major league baseball these days? It seems like you can't turn around in Hollywood without someone pitching a similar story idea right past you, or into you. Little Big League, thankfully, is better than the average spitball: It connects, in a big way, with America's love affair with the game, and brings it all back down to earth. Major league salaries are hardly a factor here. Billy Heywood (Edwards), an unrepentant Minnesota Twins fan, inherits the team from his grandfather (Robards), the team's owner and a man who is, in his own words, much richer than Thurston Howell III. Young Billy's idea is to manage the team himself, and hopefully bring them back from the dead and into the World Series, where, he knows, they belong. This being exactly the kind of film the savvy viewer will recognize in the first 15 minutes, Billy does it. He single-handedly whips the flagging Twins into an emotional, kid-driven powerhouse with the kind of logic that, these days it seems, only a kid can muster. A baseball movie for kids that doesn't pander to them, Little Big League has none of the treacly formula hooey that so many recent Disney live action productions have had (D2: The Mighty Ducks, et al.). Despite the fact (or, one would like to think, because of it) that it's aimed at kids, it still retains the majesty and sandlot glory of baseball. There's not so much poetry here that it gets elegiac, but this isn't just another kiddy sports knockoff; there's intelligence and wit here, and the jokes are more often line drives than not. Baseball greats Ken Griffey, Jr., Lou Pinella, Randy Johnson, and others pop up, and Robards, Edwards, and Crow (as Billy's mom) are all above average. It's not the greatest movie about baseball ever made (and I'll keep my mouth shut on that one if I know what's good for me), but it's not the worst, either. Like the game itself, it's pretty darn fun.
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