A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that kids will see some idolized baseball players smoke, gamble, and ultimately purposefully lose a game to line their own pockets. This historical piece is a treat for baseball aficionados, but others may lack the stamina for the plodding examination of responsibility and betrayal.
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What's the story?
Set in 1919, EIGHT MEN OUT follows the scandal surrounding the heavily-favored Chicago White Sox. Despite the team's talent, Sox-owner Charles Commisky abuses and underpays his players. Frustrated, a number of Sox players agree to throw the World Series for $10,000 each. Even the team's star, Shoeless Joe Jackson (D.B. Sweeny), seems party to the deal. Actually, the team is split, and as the losses mount, the players feud openly. Rumors of the rigging spread, and the sports writers try to figure out who is involved. Some players have second thoughts, but the gamblers get nasty and the Sox tank the series. The trial is a whitewash and the players are found innocent, but the judge is appointed baseball commissioner and expels them all from the game.
Is it any good?
Baseball fans may not mind this slow-paced period-piece, which takes an unexpected stance on the "Black Sox" scandal, one of the darkest moments in baseball history. Instead of blaming the players who took the payoff, writer/director John Sayles suggests that the owner's greed was ultimately responsible for the incident and that profiteering employers have too much power and tend to abuse their workers. This agenda places Eight Men Out in the cinematic tradition of baseball movies as social commentary. An emblem of the nation, baseball movies depict both America's faults and virtues.
Sayles's film, however, is not merely political. He recognizes that at least a few of the White Sox players are motivated by greed, and he showcases the public pain that their betrayal causes. "Say it ain't so, Joe" is the famous refrain of one disbelieving youngster. Buck Weaver (John Cusack) is the movie's most sympathetic character not only because he shuns the gamblers, but because he understands how the scandal affects the kids on the street. Eight Men Out is provocative if overly focused on details.
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