Film: 2010: Heartland Film Festival: The Perfect Game

Home Run: The Perfect Game

Photo: Heartland Film Festival director Jeff Sparks (left) listens as The Perfect Game producer Rick Eldridge (right) and actor Ryan Ochoa answer questions from the audience.

By Madelyn Ritrosky

In 1957, an underdog team in the world of Little League baseball came from nowhere – Monterrey, Mexico, that is – to win the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. 
The new film about that team and their journey to an unprecedented victory recently premiered as part of the Heartland Film Festival’s Family Movie Event.  The Perfect Game was not only a great family film; it was the centerpiece of a great family party.  My son Jared Winslow – who you know as my festival collaborator – and my parents enjoyed the afternoon as well. 
The Perfect Game is in the vein of movies about real-life underdog sports teams who faced racist, sexist, or other hurdles in the past.  For example, Glory Road and Believe in Me are basketball movies set in the 1960s; The Mighty Macs, another Heartland film this year, is about basketball in the 1970s.  Two football films that come to mind are Remember the Titans and We are Marshall, both set in the 1970s. 
Unlike those films, The Perfect Game is about baseball and about young children.  They have to venture into unfamiliar and often inhospitable territory – the United States – to follow their dream.  Unlike some of the comedies about kids’ sports teams, this is an inspiring drama based on a true story. 
Rick Eldridge, who produced Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius and The Ultimate Gift, is right at home at the Heartland Film Festival, where chosen films ‘explore the human journey by expressing hope and emphasizing the best of the human spirit.’  In fact, Eldridge ended up joining the board of Truly Moving Pictures, the organization that puts on Heartland, after learning about the festival’s positive focus in 2004.
The Perfect Game stars Clifton Collins, Jr., and Cheech Marin, and features Academy Award winner Louis Gossett, Jr., in a small role.  Collins plays Cesar, who moved to the U.S. from Mexico and found work as a locker room attendant for the St. Louis Cardinals.  He hoped to try out for the team, but the president said they weren’t ready for a Mexican. 
Back in Mexico, working in a foundry, he is coaxed by a group of local boys to coach their newly forming baseball team and finally to take them to the U.S. to compete for the Little League World Series title.  Along the way, Padre Estaban (Marin) never loses faith in the dream and is able to accompany them on part of their trip. 
At the Family Movie Event, Rick Eldridge and Ryan Ochoa, who plays one of the boys and has recently been seen on Nickelodeon’s iCarly, attended the event and answered audience questions after the screening.  A boys’ gymnastics group and the Indianapolis Indians mascot entertained kids and adults, and there was plenty of ‘ballpark’ food.  My personal favorite was the hot pretzels. 
My real favorite was, of course, the film.  We always look forward to the Family Movie Event, but in this case, The Perfect Game was indeed the perfect choice. 
The Perfect Game will come out in theaters in April 2010.  Play ball!

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