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Baseball film shows ‘quintessential’ Midwest

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–“It’s the only game on earth where the object is to get home,” David Mickey Evans says about baseball and his new film, “The Final Season.”

An ardent fan of the game, Evans made his directorial debut with 1993’s “The Sandlot,” a pleasurable comedy about a new boy in town who finds his place after joining the neighborhood baseball team.

“The sport of baseball is a metaphor for family, and for life, where you can be a part of a team -– part of a tight unit -– but within that tight family unit, you can stand out as an individual and shine.”

Sean Astin, who plays the coach of the team in Evans’ movie, supports the director’s philosophy, saying, “Baseball, and especially high school baseball, is something that brings parents and kids together.”

Astin, who starred in “Rudy,” another standout fact-based sports story, joined The Final Season because of its positive elements.

“I can sum up in two words what sets it apart: heart and authenticity,” Astin said.

“Everybody involved with the movie did it because they believed in it. The movie was made by Iowans, the money was raised by Iowans, it was filmed in Iowa. That Midwestern feel just seeps out of every frame of the film.

“If you put the film in a time capsule, in 200 years you could open it up and say this is the quintessential way in which Midwesterners saw themselves at the beginning of the 21st century,” Astin said, including how high school baseball in the Midwest overrides TV, movies or other social activities that take precedence in more cosmopolitan areas. They are the prime events in the heartland that speak of family and American ideals.

The Final Season, set at a school that is closing its doors, “treats high school baseball in a realistic way,” Astin continued. “Baseball’s still the national pastime. It’s our sport, as a country. But I can’t think of a baseball movie that takes you right into sophomore, junior, senior guts of high school baseball as well as it’s depicted here.”

Astin, son of actress Patty Duke (“The Miracle Worker”) and John Astin (“The Addams Family”), played Sam Gamgee in the billion-dollar “Lord of the Rings” franchise and has geared his career toward projects meant to teach as well as entertain. In the small-budget but effective 2005 film, “Smile,” about a medical organization that helps children around the world born with facial deformities, Astin played a small role in order to be supportive of a project intended to make people aware of Operation Smile.

“I think there’s a place for movies aimed at a younger audience that have an edge to them,” Astin said. “I think The Final Season has that edge. I wish there was a way to say ‘family film’ where it didn’t sound soft. I just don’t like the idea that audiences or studios dismiss a subject matter because it only seems good for a particular demographic. This is a family film with guts.

“The boys on that final Norway [High School] team didn’t have anything waiting for them at the end of the game because their school was going to be shutting down,” noted Evans, who wrote the screenplay for the critically acclaimed “Radio Flyer.” “And yet they put their whole heart into each play right down to the final catch,” Evans said.

“They played with courage, commitment and character because it was simply the right thing to do,” Evans said.

Astin noted that “the inevitable march of progress is likely to leave behind some of the great aspects of our culture. So to make a movie that kind of sign-posts that and says, ‘You know what, there are things that are so special, you have to stop and appreciate them, because they might not be here long unless you fight to keep them.’ That’s what this movie is trying to accomplish.”

The Final Season opens in theaters, Friday, Oct. 12.
Phil Boatwright, online at previewonline.org, reviews films from a Christian perspective. “The Final Season,” which opens Friday, Oct. 12, is rated PG for a few minor expletives, but no harsh language or profanity (God’s name followed by a curse or the abusive use of Christ’s name).

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  • Phil Boatwright