The real-life story behind The Perfect Game, opening April 16, is one for the ages. In 1957, a group of boys from Monterrey, Mexico with little baseball-playing experience became the first non-U.S. team to win the Little League World Series. They were led by a man who was once a pitching coach and then a janitor for a major league team. They overcame racism, lack of money and visa woes to make it to the championship. Their pitcher, Angel Macias, allowed no hits in the final game of the series, pitching what remains the only perfect game in the history of the event.
Director William Dear tries hard to weave The Perfect Game into a film that inspires at every turn (maybe a little too hard). At times, the movie seems more gold-toned Hollywood fable than true story: Monterrey looks more like a Mexican village out of a studio back lot —complete with requisite street markets and women in braids and colorful dresses—and the characters fit a little too neatly into one-dimensional archetypes. There’s the alcoholic, self-loathing coach who finds redemption by leading the kids (Clifton Collins Jr.); the boy who seeks his father’s approval by joining the team (Jake T. Austin, as Angel Macias); the pious priest who seems to exist only to pray and lecture (Cheech Marin); and a host of blindly racist white people in the form of cops, coaches and baseball players.
Still, it’s hard to root against a family film that teaches kids that persistence and hard work pay off, that skin color should never be a barrier to friendship and that taking a stand is always worthwhile—even if the movie does package these values in an overly earnest tone. As for the film’s most gratifying moments, they come during the drama of the final game and especially in the epilogue, which features footage of the real game and provides details about the remarkable pint-size players. Inspiring indeed.