A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this inspiring sports drama about a Mexican Little League team that made it all the way to the World Series is a fine pick for most kids. There are a few themes that might be too difficult for kids under 7 to understand, like the discrimination the boys face when playing in Texas or the Midwest. Because it's set in the '50s, when Jim Crow laws were still the norm in the American South, the team has to deal with "whites only" signs, being called "wetbacks" and watching the sole black player of a team eat separately from his white teammates. One of the boys has a cruel, seemingly alcoholic father grieving the death of an older son, and the coach also gets drunk after being called a "towel boy." There are also a couple of scuffles between characters, although no actual punches are thrown. There's also a strong religious theme in the film, since the kids are strict Catholics. Also, kids learn about overcoming odds, working as a team, and relying on faith when confronted with obstacles.
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What's the story?
Based on an improbable but true story, this inspiring sports movie follows a group of poor boys from Monterrey, Mexico who find a St. Louis Cardinals baseball and think it's a gift from God. With guidance from their supportive priest, Father Esteban (Cheech Marin) and Cesar (Clifton Collins Jr.), a former Major League clubhouse attendant, the boys -- led by Angel (Jake T. Austin), Enrique (Jansen Pannetierre), and Mario (Moises Arias) -- form an official Little League team that idolizes the Brooklyn Dodgers. After enduring Coach Cesar's strict practices, the Monterrey Industrials manage to defy the odds to compete against an American team in front of racist spectators until they miraculously reach the Little League World Series. Billed the David to the American team's Goliath, the Monterrey boys prove they can play THE PERFECT GAME.
Is it any good?
Director William Dear's overly sentimental tribute to the first foreign team ever to win the Little League World Series is so predictable it's funny. There's nothing unexpected in the entire film, and unfortunately, neither the actors nor the director could seem to agree whether to pronounce Mexican names in Spanish or some form of exaggeratedly accented English. But despite its considerable corniness, it's nearly impossible not to get sucked into the sugary-sweet underdog story. The adorable Catholic boys are irresistible in their belief that God has provided not only a real baseball but a former major-league "coach" to lead them to greatness. They even insist on having the108th Psalm recited prior to every game in honor of a baseball's 108 stitches. If you've just rolled your eyes, then you're not the intended audience for this afterschool-special-like tale.
At first it seemed laughable that Marin, who spent his early career as half of the pot-loving comedy duo Cheech & Chong, would play a believable priest, but as the movie continued, his character was actually gentle and patient and not played (completely) for laughs. Collins, an underrated character actor who's often pigeon-holed in Hispanic gangster or cop roles, displays a good rapport with the kids, many of whom are charming veteran actors like Austin (Wizards of Waverly Place), Arias (Hannah Montana) and Panettiere (Hayden's little bro). A subplot featuring Emilie de Ravin as a newspaper reporter reluctantly assigned to cover the Industrials on their undefeated journey is underdeveloped, whereas an African-American groundskeeper (Louis Gossett Jr.) who helps the boys decipher their opposing pitcher's hand signals would've been welcome in more scenes.Perfect Game is not Rudy, but it is an educational and inspiring little sports flick.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the David vs. Goliath theme in the film. What do the Monterrey boys have to overcome to compete in the World Series? How are the American teams "Goliath-like"?
Why are underdog stories so appealing? Name some of the best underdog-themed sports movies.
There are lots of Biblical references in the movie. How does the kids' faith affect their playing?
How is racism treated in the movie? Is it difficult to consider what it was like when there were "white's only" signs on bathrooms and elderly men were derisively called "colored" by white men? How did the kids react to the African American boy who must eat separately from his team? What would you have done?
- In theaters: April 16, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: August 2, 2011
- Cast: Cheech Marin, Clifton Collins Jr., Emilie de Ravin, Jake T. Austin
- Director: William Dear
- Studio: Slowhand Releasing
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 118 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some thematic elements
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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