Good news for parents: LITTLE BIG LEAGUE sails cleanly over home plate. For once in a kids' sports picture, the child actors don't grate or get sticky, and the adults aren't crotch-grabbing, swaggering, overgrown delinquents. More important, LITTLE BIG LEAGUE makes some very nice
emotional points along the way to a satisfying end, suggesting that America's rocky romance with baseball is alive and well.
Twelve-year-old Billy Heywood (Luke Edwards) is the ultimate baseball enthusiast, a walking computer bank of sandlot statistics, lore, and strategy. Billy's grandfather (Jason Robards) owns the Minnesota Twins; when he suddenly dies, the boy discovers that he's inherited the team. Although his
mom (Ashley Crow) has misgivings, Billy argues that this is a chance for him to spend the summer constructively, as she'd envisioned. As head of the Twins organization, Billy soon learns that the world of pro baseball isn't about fun; the element of play has all but disappeared from the game. He's
greeted frostily by the players, who understandably have no confidence in a kid's ability to run a business. The team manager (Dennis Farina) ignores or publicly insults the boy, so Billy fires him and decides to run the team himself. After some tribulations, Billy finally proves his ability to
plot game strategy, and he convinces the team to play to "just have fun," believing this attitude leads to victory, which it does.
But Billy's newfound success proves to be a mixed blessing. His "just have fun" outlook encourages his mother to have some of her own, beginning a dating relationship with Twin's first baseman Lou Collins (Timothy Busfield). In a dual display of possessiveness and authority, Billy imposes a
curfew on Collins to sabotage the burgeoning relationship. His preoccupation with big business prevents him from having fun in his own life, causing estrangement from his two best friends and erstwhile supporters (Billy L. Sullivan and Miles Feulner). Overwhelmed by pressures, Billy finally renews
his enthusiasm by playing backlot baseball with a group of underprivileged youngsters. In a twist of O. Henry proportions, Billy learns that human effort is its own reward, transcending the momentary high of victory.
With surprising success and without smug moralizing, LITTLE BIG LEAGUE seeks to tell young viewers the truth about realizing dreams--that it entails a lot of hard work and messy, unfortunate details, and that one pays a price for it. Not since DAMN YANKEES has a film so knowingly dealt with the
business aspect of the American pastime. Gregory K. Pincus and Alan Scheinman's screenplay presents the world of pro sports as an unwieldy combination of athletics, financial competition, staged entertainment, and labor disputes. Additionally, the film vividly captures the pressure experienced by
pro athletes on the field (especially when real-life ballplayer Randy Johnson, who stands 6'10, malevolently steps up to pitch). To this end LITTLE BIG LEAGUE relies on athletes who can act. Appearances by Kevin Elster, Leon "Bull" Durham, Brad "The Animal" Lesley, Ken Griffey Jr., Wally Joyner,
and many others, lend documentary effect, dependable performances, and a feast for beefcake watchers. The rest of the cast is fine, although Busfield, despite semi-pro experience, doesn't physically look like an athlete when surrounded by a supporting cast of taller, beefed-up bods. Remote Luke
Edwards takes his time warming up, but Feulner and especially Sullivan are expert foils, and the balance of child personalities comes out right. (Profanity.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: PG
- Review: Good news for parents: LITTLE BIG LEAGUE sails cleanly over home plate. For once in a kids' sports picture, the child actors don't grate or get sticky, and the adults aren't crotch-grabbing, swaggering, overgrown delinquents. More important, LITTLE BIG LEA… (more)