A scene from "The Yankles."
While it's not without its fleeting charms, the 2007-shot underdog sports comedy "The Yankles," directed by David R. Brooks from a script he co-wrote with his brother, Zev, takes its eye off the ball one too many times.
Had this offbeat tale of an orthodox yeshiva baseball team and its new coach, Charlie (Brian Wimmer) — an ex-major leaguer and DUI parolee forced into community service — simply stuck to its high-concept logline, it might have proved a more satisfying romp. But burdened by an excessive intro, a strained subplot involving another former baseball champ ("Happy Days'" Don Most) at odds with his rabbinical student son (Michael Buster), and a glut of off-the-field atmospherics, this overlong movie never builds sufficient momentum.
As the "goy out of water," Wimmer is less effective in the film's more comedic moments — his botched Yiddishisms don't quite land — than when playing the aggressive jock. In addition, his character doesn't seem to do much specific coaching (the Yankles aren't all that bad), which limits everyone's potentially amusing learning curve.
On the plus side, the eclectic, largely Klezmer-themed musical score is a joy (the overkilling closing tune aside). Cast standouts include Susanne Sutchy, gently appealing as Charlie's observantly Jewish love interest, and the pitch perfect Jeff Olson as a spiteful baseball commissioner.
"The Yankles." MPAA rating: PG-13 for language. Running time: 1 hour, 56 minutes. At Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills; Laemmle's Town Center 5, Encino.