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Home Run

Posted: April 19, 2013 at 2:34 a.m.

Cory (Scott Elrod) is a humbled major leaguer with addiction issues who learns some life lessons while coaching a Little League team in small-town Oklahoma.

The predictable road to redemption traveled by Home Run takes an unexpected turn for the better, thanks to the engaging performance of its slugging star.

Scott Elrod, a curly-haired Mike Piazza lookalike with a David Bazzel smile and a big league physique, plays Cory Brand, a Major League hitter whose career is taking a slide because of his fondness for and dependence on adult beverages.

In case you’re new to redemption movies, here’s the story progression for Cory: top of his game, a series of uh-oh incidents, a steep tumble downward, grounding out,then finding salvation through forgiveness and atonement.

It’s not Leaving Las Vegas, but it has its moments.

Cory’s drinking, which extends to the pregame locker room, doesn’t seem detrimental to his ability to be a top hitter and a fan favorite for the fictive Denver Grizzlies. But he has a superstar tendency to lose his temper at the slightest provocation. This makes him hard to deal with, a concern for his social media-savvy agent Helene (Vivica A. Fox).

An incident involving a young fan brings on an eight week suspension for Cory, which Helene parlays into a public-relations coup: coaching a kids’ baseball team in his home town of Okmulgee, Okla.

Cue the banjo music!

A requirement of Cory’s suspension is attending a rehab program. It will be church-based Celebrate Recovery, his agent tells him. “It’s the only game in town.”

Going home often means trouble for the hero of a story, and in this case Cory’s difficulties center around confronting his past with an abusive dad, an indifferent relationship with his younger brother Clay (James Devoti), and the inevitable and complicated run-in with his shrewish former high school girlfriend Emma (Dorian Brown), who naturally has her reasons for being peevish in his presence.

Oh, and there’s the not easy business of coming around to the idea that daily doses of vodka and whatnot aren’t doing Cory - or his career - any favors. What to do with a well-stocked refrigerator in his motel room (with the bottles turned away from the camera to avoid product placement issues)? That’s where a higher power comes into the picture.

The conclusion is not hard to figure out. What makes the film worth consideration is its lack of heavy-handedness with doling out information about the Christian recovery program (a real deal with eight principles for recovery inspired by the Beatitudes shared by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount). The topic, for the most part, is treated with respect for its audience, unlike the hammering you get from films like the Rapture-focused Left Behind franchise.

Another surprise is the high regard the film places on children. There are a lot of kids in Home Run, and they are treated with compassion and dignity by the screenwriters. Each scene featuring one of the young baseball players, particularly Charles Henry Wyson as Emma’s son Tyler, serves to move the plot forward with meaningful actions and dialogue instead of using them to deliver wisecracks, buffoonery and pratfalls.

Be sure to stick around for the credits, which feature snapshots of actual participants in the Celebrate Recovery program. “I still struggle but I don’t feel helpless anymore,” says a young man struggling with methamphetamine addiction. “I can feel myself changing.”

Home Run 82 Cast: Scott Elrod, Vivica A. Fox, Dorian Brown, Charles Henry Wyson, James Devoti Director: David Boyd Rating: PG-13 Running time: 108 minutes

MovieStyle, Pages 31 on 04/19/2013

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