The Perfect Game (PG) (118 min.) — I'll recommend the baseball drama The Perfect Game to Little League coaches and teams whose schedules look like 10-run rules waiting to happen.
Kids on the sweet end of that rule will scoff at this overly earnest story of diamond underdogs winning. The other teams will have something positive to think about on their way to ice cream and pizza.
Based on a true story yet feeling preposterous, The Perfect Game takes a youth baseball team in 1957 from the dusty poverty of Monterrey, Mexico, to Williamsport, Pa., where it became the first non-U.S. team to win the Little League championship. I seriously doubt that it happened this way, with such convenient strife and truncated solutions. The movie is about baseball but plays like T-ball, with each situation teed up for easy swings.
There's the coach, Cesar Faz (Clifton Collins Jr.), who has bounced from a pro baseball job and winds up working in a Monterrey mine and hitting the bottle. You know he needs a little redemption. Good thing there's kindly Padre Esteban (Cheech Marin!) gathering local boys with Brooklyn Dodgers fixations to play baseball with whittled bats and hand-wrapped balls.
Cesar agrees to coach the team, and no sooner than the kids clear a garbage dump for a field, they're beating the best team in Texas. In fact, the Monterrey kids never lose in The Perfect Game; they only quiet their skeptics. Oh, they have other problems: a few racial slurs, visa hassles, a grumpy dad and Cesar going on a pity-bender during the playoff run. The boys take it all in child-actor stride with big grins, making even the true parts tough to swallow.
This movie doesn't even treat Mexicans with much respect, other than the good Padre's mini-sermons (and a dubbed Mass that Marin apparently couldn't handle). I cringed when one kid bashes a pinata, informing Cesar he's a slugger, and another running from a market where he shoplifted is the sign of a base stealer. Near the finale, a couple of shady Mexicans attempt to fix a big game. Viva la stereotypes.
On the other hand, just count how many white Americans (plus Lou Gossett Jr.) it takes for The Perfect Game to reach its happy ending. C-