Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. USA/Germany, 2001. Paramount Pictures, Fireworks Pictures, Nides/McCormick Productions, Tollin/Robbins Productions, GHS Productions KG, Munich Film Partners & Company. Screenplay by John Gatins, based on the book Hardball: A Season In The Projects by Daniel Coyle. Cinematography by Tom Richmond. Produced by Tina Nides, Brian Robbins, Michael Tollin. Music by Mark Isham. Production Design by Jaymes Hinkle. Costume Design by Francine Jamison-Tanchuck. Film Editing by Ned Bastille.
Keanu Reeves plays a compulsive gambler whose debts have caught up with him and landed him in big trouble. To help ease his money problems, his friend (Michael McGlone) suggests he take over a coaching assignment of an inner-city Little League baseball team and he will pay him weekly for it. Reeves doesn’t want to go anywhere near the idea, but his need for cash overrules everything and he accepts the assignment. Everything that you expect to happen, does: he will teach them a thing or two about life, and they will improve the quality of his. The surprise is, you’ll love going on this much-trodden journey, and will even delight when Reeves finds romance with the players’ beautiful schoolteacher (Diane Lane). All the kids are marvelous, and their interactions with Reeves are tense, touching and heartbreaking without ever resorting to maudlin, emotionally manipulative cheese. Even Reeves, who gives his usual blockhead performance that relies too much on hand gestures and his dopey voice, plays such a likeable character that you’ll decide to admire his performance anyway.