'Undrafted': Film Review

Undrafted-Still1-James Belushi and Aaron Tveit -H 2016
Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment
Doesn't get past first base.

An intramural baseball game takes on a new importance when a star player is passed over for the big leagues in Joe Mazzello's directorial debut.

Watching a game played at your local sandlot on a summer afternoon would be far more entertaining than actor Joe Mazzello's directorial debut about a ragtag group of intramural baseball players. Inspired by the true story of the filmmaker's brother being passed over for the Major Leagues, Undrafted is clearly a labor of love. But its amateurish execution, muddled tonal shifts and plethora of sports movie cliches make these seven onscreen innings feel very long indeed.

Mazzello (who as a child appeared in Jurassic Park and whose adult credits include The Social Network), plays an outfielder with anger issues in this tale about a team whose star player, John Mazetti (Aaron Tveit), has just learned that he's failed to be drafted into MLB. That doesn't prevent him from joining his D-Backs teammates in their playoff game against the rival Bulldogs, even though his concerned father (Jim Belushi) counsels him to sit it out.

Cue the would-be Bad News Bears-style hysterics mixed with family drama, as we're introduced to Mazetti's fellow players including a reliever turned starting pitcher (Tyler Hoechlin), a square-jawed (and fashionably stubbled) power hitter (Chace Crawford), a player/coach (Duke Davis Roberts), and an older player (Philip Winchester) who's long past his prime.

Mixing its baseball diamond action with farcical episodes involving, among other things, a pair of obnoxious cops and a heated debate concerning the Backstreet Boys, Undrafted never manages to make us care about its overgrown adolescent characters and whether or not they win the game. It's a fatal flaw in a sports movie, even if several of the young actors demonstrate real athletic skills.

Mostly looking sullen, Tveit fails to demonstrate the charisma recently showcased in NBC's Grease Live!, and the rest of the ensemble are undone by their one-note characters. It makes one long for more screen time for comedian Billy Gardell (Mike and Molly), drolly funny as a harried umpire.

The coda features home movie footage of the real-life game that inspired the film. It packs more excitement and humor into its brief running time than the entire feature preceding it.

Production: Dead Fish Films, Parlay Pictures
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Cast: Aaron Tveit, Chace Crawford, Tyler Hoechlin Joe Mazzello, Philip Winchester, Jay Hayden, Michael Fishman, Billy Gardell, Jim Belushi
Director/screenwriter: Joe Mazzello
Producers: Eric Fischer, Brianna Lee Johnson, Joe Mazello
Executive producers: Tony Romo, Chace Crawford
Director of photography: Adrian Correia
Production designer: Anthony Eikner
Editor: Sharon Rutter
Costume designers: Christopher Lawrence, Sarah Evelyn Bram
: Elizabeth Barnes, Corbin Bronson

Not rated, 100 minutes.