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Movie review: 'Home Run' overplays its morality pitch

The message about beating alcoholism overwhelms the film starring Scott Elrod as a baseball player sent back to his hometown to attend Celebrate Recovery, a religious 12-step program started by a pastor at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church.

April 18, 2013|By Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times Film Critic
  • Scott Elrod stars in "Home Run."
Scott Elrod stars in "Home Run." (Provident Films )

"Home Run" is the heartfelt and deeply religious story of a baseball star's struggle with alcoholism and the Christian faith-based recovery group that gets him through.

The first moments seem promising as images of a peaceful stretch of farm country fill up the screen. A weathered red barn sits in the distance next to a sprawling white farmhouse with a wraparound porch. But as the camera goes in close, something is wrong — the red is too red, the worn spots too worn. The metaphor is seriously overplayed and we are only in the first inning.

Veteran cinematographer David Boyd is making a very shaky feature debut with this conflicted drama, which was team-written — a strategy that is swell in sports, but rarely works in film.

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Almost from the beginning the message overwhelms the medium. The focus keeps shifting from a ballplayer with a drinking problem to Celebrate Recovery, a 12-step program started by John Baker, a pastor at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church.

The movie's first peaceful moments are soon broken by a drunk dad (Timothy Fall) dragging a sack of baseballs toward the barn as he orders his young sons to bring their bats. Cory and Clay, who look to be around 8 and 6, are fearful. They have reason to be. As Cory stands at the makeshift plate, dad hurls endless baseballs and recriminations.

Cut to Cory (Scott Elrod) years later in the major leagues. He's a hitter on a hot streak, but like his late father, he drinks too much and gets mean when he does. After a fit on the field that leaves a batboy with a bloody nose, Cory is suspended and rehab is mandated. In the blink of an eye, his agent (Vivica A. Fox) drops Cory off in his small Oklahoma hometown, hands him a Celebrate Recovery brochure, signs him up to coach the local kids team and calls in the media to capture his "remorse."

It's already a little too convenient, but that was just the warm-up. It seems nearly everyone in the town has ties that bind Cory. The most significant one is his high school sweetheart, Emma (Dorian Brown). She's the team's other coach and her son (Charles Henry Wyson) needs help with his swing. She's also a widow... A blind man could see where this is going.

Ironically, while virtually everything else in "Home Run" is overplayed, Cory's addiction is not. The hometown hero does hit a downward spiral before he begins the road to recovery, but it unfolds in such fits and starts that we rarely feel Cory's pain. And the heart-wrenching recovery stories — many of them from real people in the Celebrate Recovery program — are strangely colorless. It's a credit to Elrod that he handles all the curveballs he's thrown in "Home Run" with some style.

betsy.sharkey@latimes.com

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