While sports movies may not be high on audience to-do lists, with those not especially thrilled by that particular spectator pastime whether on the playing field or the big screen, there’s been a different sort of cinematic breed evolving within that genre. And impressing viewers with much more on its mind than keeping score.
And with The Perfect Game, Big Fan and now Calvin Marshall, those films are poised to score points with viewers representing a wide array of assorted tastes in movies. Where the notion of sports takes on significance for everyday people as the symbolic universal struggle to ward off defeat in life, even while surrounding obstacles loom large as the triumphant opponent.
Steve Zahn, fresh from his stint holding his own both as a character and co-star against a petulant Jennifer Aniston in Management, shines with comedic grit and temperamental charm in his own right here as Coach Little in Calvin Marshall. A former Minor League baseball star who never made it as a profession athlete, Little now presides reluctantly over a rural junior college team as a resentful and rambunctious alcoholic.
And currently stuck with having to drop from the team the exuberant but less than talented Calvin (Alex Frost) who refuses to go away, Little finds himself unable to psychologically destroy this daydreaming young man, too brutal a reminder of his own failures. At the same time, Calvin is smitten with the school’s female volleyball star, Tori (Michelle Lombardo), an ambitious coed who towers over Calvin in more ways than one, both physically and as a gifted athlete headed for future celebrityhood on the court. But when she dominates their budding romance as well, failing to reciprocate his overwhelming feelings for her, Calvin’s broken heart is yet one more painful wound compounding his relentlessly thwarted life.
Writer/director Gary Lundgren has carved a quietly touching emotional canvas, conveying a genuine sense of the crushed dreams inhabiting small town existence. Along with the abundant feisty humor and warmth ultimately binding those bruised but resilient souls together.
And Lundgren provides a rare and invigorating spotlight as well, on the back to basics collective camaraderie shared among salt of the earth workingclass enthusiasts of any game played on the field themselves, simply for the love of sports beyond money and fame. And just the way it was always meant to be.
Broken Sky Films
4 [out of 4] stars