Genre: Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 59 min.
Release Date: October 12th, 2007 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: David Mickey Evans Actors: Sean Astin, Powers Boothe, Marshall Bell, Lucinda Jenney, Michael Angarano, Tom Arnold, Rachael Leigh Cook, Danielle Savre, Parisse Boothe, Mackenzie Astin
he underdog story, typically based on true events, is a winning formula that plays up to the audience and never seems to get old. It sparks a note of hope, triumph, and determination, managing to generate universal appeal regardless of the specific sport or scenario. At least, that’s what most viewers will believe before viewing “The Final Season.” Never has an underdog film been so boring, trite, and wholly uninspiring – which is particularly disappointing coming from the director of “The Sandlot.”
When Kent Stock (Sean Astin) is invited to become an assistant coach for the last few weeks of the Norway, Iowa high school baseball season, he’s thrilled to rejoin his longtime friend and head coach Jim Van Scoyoc (Powers Boothe). But the state school board soon decides that, due to costs, it is necessary for the Norway school to be absorbed by the Madison District, thereby ending the Norway baseball team and its 19 years of winning the state championships. When Harvey Makepeace (Marshall Bell) strikes a deal to allow one more season of baseball, on the condition that Scoyoc retires from coaching, Stock steps up to take over and re-instill pride and determination into the discouraged townsfolk and their heroic team.
Attempting to cash in on the successes of projects like “We Are Marshall” and “Invincible,” “The Final Season” has finally forced the underdog film to strike out. Similar to the huge slew of Asian horror films remade for America, which slowly dwindled away due to repetitiveness and eventual monotony, “The Final Season” manages to destroy the bright spirit and winning combination of a crestfallen team paired with an unlikely leader set on taking them to victory. It goes through the motions to copy the pattern, but does so without any enthusiasm or originality.
In general, these types of films are predictable, simply because it can’t be much of an underdog tale if the main characters don’t come from behind to win. But “The Final Season” takes repetition and generic qualities way too far. The characters are all recycled versions of substandard cardboard cutouts, Stock’s motivational antics are unusually dull, and the conflict in the film is pointless. The school isn’t merely threatened to be shut down, it is actually being shut down, so the only thing the baseball team struggles for is to go out on top. But that will only glorify a community pastime destined for extinction, with no sympathy coming from the real-life town. As evidenced by the epilogue in the end credits, Madison High School has never won a state championship, while all of the schools in Iowa combined have not been able to win as many baseball trophies as Norway. What a way to rub it in Iowa’s face.
And finally, perhaps the most noticeably horrific aspect of “The Final Season” is its acting. Powers Boothe delivers every line as if he’s reading from a teleprompter, offering as much range and emotion as the grass in the outfield. Sean Astin, likewise, looks as if he was tortured into playing the role of Kent, while Rachael Leigh Cook’s cliched persona is laughable at best. Every character and theme is drenched in preachiness, presenting dialogue that sounds directly quoted from a self-help handbook. And the disgruntled, rebellious, young star player, Mitch (Michael Angarano), is unlikable and paltry, with his sudden reformation seemingly provoked by nothing more than a wink from a cute girl. All in all, “The Final Season” is as disastrously embarrassing as a pitcher walking-in the game-winning run.
– Mike Massie