The Final Season

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The filmmakers' love for baseball shows in every frame of "The Final Season." What doesn't come through is a love for good drama. Poor writing, an indifferent production and sincere but often wooden acting make "Season" one big strikeout. The film may score fans in home entertainment, but its theatrical outlook is poor despite Sean Astin ("The Lord of the Rings") in the dual role of the film's hero and exec producer.

This is yet another "based on a true story" sports picture. A high school baseball team from Norway, Iowa, a town of 586 people, won 19 State Championships in 22 years. Then in 1991 -- destined to be its final season as Norway was to merge with a neighboring school district because of state cutbacks -- a new coach named Kent Stock took over and drove his players to win a final championship, the school's 20th.

Which leaves writers Art D'Alessandro and James Grayford with a great ending but no story. So they invent a false conflict between the coach and his kids, a player from Chicago with an attitude, a perennial naysayer, a political battle between the townsfolk and school board, a couple of lame romances and even a bus driver with a heart problem to fill in the gaps between the games. The film thereby misses its real story -- the dying of small-town American life and the role of school sports in such communities.

Astin stars as Kent Stock, as assistant coach the year before, who took over from legendary head coach Jim Van Scoyoc (Powers Booth). Van Scoyoc actually left not because of an evil school board's refusal to renew his contract, but to take a dream job as pitching coach in the Detroit Tigers' farm system. The movie then portrays Stock as a former girl's volleyball coach, who is therefore greeted on his first day of practice by a dugout filled with volleyballs.

Despite the loss of several players, Stock pushes his players to win enough games to make the playoffs. Along the way, he finds time for a very PG-ish romance with Rachel Leigh Cook, playing a state official promoting the school merger. The central focus among the players rests with Michael Angarano, a surly catcher who sneaks smokes and throws off attitude, the result of the death of his mother and inattention of his dad (Tom Arnold in little more than a cameo).

The dialogue throughout is cheesy and often without subtext. Baseball action, staged by director David Mickey Evans, is routine and lacking in excitement. The only actor who shows much life is Angarano, though his rebel-without-a-cause routine is a tad old.

Even for those who know nothing about Norway and its baseball team, there is something all too predictable, preordained even, about this movie's portrait of its final season.

THE FINAL SEASON
Yari Film Group Releasing
Final Partners presents a Carl Borack/TRMC production in association with Fobia Films
Credits:
Director: David Mickey Evans
Screenwriters: Art D'Alessandro, James Grayford
Producers: Michael Wasserman, Steven Schott, Tony Wilson, Parker Widemire, Herschel Weingrod
Executive producers: Sean Astin, Carl Borack
Director of photography: Daniel Stoloff
Production designer: Chester Kaczenski
Music: Nathan Wang
Costume designer: Lynn Brannelly-Newman
Editor: Harry Keramidas
Cast:
Kent Stock: Sean Astin
Jim Van Scoyoc: Powers Boothe
Polly Hudson: Rachel Leigh Cook
Mitch: Michael Angarano
Jared: James Gammon
Roger Dempsey: Larry Miller
Burt Akers: Tom Arnold
Sheryl Van Scoyoc: Lucinda Jenney
Running time -- 117 minutes
MPAA rating: PG
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