Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Take a loser, deep in debt to the bookies, and a bunch of kids from a Chicago housing project, who want to play ball, and what do you have? An exercise in sentimentality.

The kids learn about working together for a common cause. The loser learns about commitment. The team from nowhere beats the show-offs from uptown. It makes your heart bleed.

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Keanu Reeves plays Conor O'Neill, who is forced to coach these 10-year-olds as a way of paying off his gambling losses. He doesn't want to do it, but has no choice. The black kids are better at expletive rap than the rules of baseball. They don't mind being there. What else can they do? The 'hood is a war zone, with drive-by shootings and casual carnage a daily occurrence.

Add to the mix a schoolteacher (Diane Lane), who is beautiful and unattached. O'Neill hooks up. It's so Hollywood, it squeaks. The title of the movie should be Softball. The hardest thing around is discovering an answer to the question, what for?

Fresh from his rebirth in The Matrix, Reeves goes straight into a downbeat role where children steal his glamour. Lane must have been struggling before Unfaithful to pay the rent. Otherwise, why would she squander her considerable talent on a half-baked nothing part?

The kids have fun, it's true, learning to throw straight, especially DeWayne Warren, who looks like Martin Lawrence, aged 6.

Cute? As a button.

Reviewed on: 19 Jun 2002
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Keanu Reeves coaches baseball to deprived black kids in Chicago.
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Director: Brian Robbins

Writer: John Gatins, based on the book by Daniel Coyle

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Diane Lane, John Hawkes, D B Sweeney, Mike McGlone, Graham Beckel

Year: 2001

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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