Little Big League (1994)

Rating: C+

Dir: Andrew Scheinman
Star: Luke Edwards, Timothy Busfield, Ashley Crowe, John Ashton

11-year old Billy (Edwards) inherits a failing major-league baseball team from his grandfather, and decides he’ll run it himself. It’s easy to connect the subsequent dots: resistance from the players, they’re won over by his naive charm, start playing better, etc. Fast forward 105 minutes, past the minor distraction of his mother dating a player (Busfield), to the inevitable winner-takes-all scenario; storming onto the mound with the game on the line, comes the opposition’s monstrous ace pitcher (played by the 6’10” Randy Johnson, now with the local Arizona Diamondbacks). Total nonsense.

However, like most baseball fans, I’m an utter mark for it, since we all dream of running a team – particularly this year, as Arizona currently has the worst record in baseball. The sport is such a mystical, almost spiritual part of American life, that its films get away with – providing you’re a fan, anyway – sentimentality that would be badly cloying in any other genre. Rookie of the Year, Angels in the Outfield, even The Natural, all require a suspension of disbelief not needed by, say, movies about the NFL. Except maybe, Air Bud: Golden Receiver, and that hardly deserves comparison to, say, Field of Dreams.

Despite the rather odd (tho’ amusing) sequence where Billy enjoys Night Nurses from Jersey on hotel cable, this clearly aims at a younger audience, with a sanitised view of baseball lacking F-bombs, steroids, etc. But that’s how most fans want to see the game anyway. The presence of various real-life players, such as Ken Griffey Jr, enhances things, and the actors give a good imitation of players (Busfield played at the semi-pro level). A lot of the stuff around the edges is equally authentic, such as the broadcaster who wields statistics like “batting average against left handed pitchers faced at home for the first time in the last month of the season”. Use that as a litmus test; if you know what the hell he’s talking about, you’ll likely enjoy this unashamedly warm and fuzzy film.