Burgess Jenkins, Justin Miles. Directed by Manny Edwards. Advent Film Group and Brightline Pictures.
FILM SYNOPSIS: A father’s broken relationship with his family fills him with determination to win back the son he left behind. Reaching out through the game they both love, he deliberately forms a baseball team designed to reconnect both fathers and sons, transforming their town in the process. The story shows how one good man can lead change in his community for a common good.
PREVIEW REVIEW: The lead wears a four-day growth of beard throughout the entire film – even the flashbacks from years before. Does this bother anybody? It’s kind of Hollywood’s new way of tormenting me. First it was the shaky hand-held camera that became a staple in the movie-making process. It served a purpose until it became standard practice. Now, it’s the four-day growth that remains throughout the film. It’s an affectation that seldom corresponds with the supposed no-nonsense character of the film’s protagonist. Yet there it is in commercial after commercial and far too many movies. As soon as I see the four-day growth on the lead character it takes me out of the scene. Right away I picture the actor in makeup at the beginning of the day’s filming, with a mug of coffee in one hand, the script in the other, while the makeup artist applies some color to the actor’s face after using a special trimmer designed to give the casual look to the cool guy.
DeNiro put on fifty pounds to play Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, not as a gimmick, but to represent how much change had occurred in the boxer’s life. Matthew McConaughey lost enough weight to make himself look like a real AIDS victim in Dallas Buyers Club. This was also done to serve the character and the story. But the four-day growth of beard on chiseled actors? That’s more about the actor than the character.
By now, you are wondering why this is so important to the review. Well, I feel a filmmaker and the cast are not doing the best they could when they allow style over substance. Indeed, the first half of the film suffers from its blasé and clichéd approach to story and theme. There is, however, a redeeming factor that makes Hero worth viewing. When a father is presented as a prison inmate desperately seeking a way to relate to his boy, the film slowly reveals substance and an emotional impact. I finally got past the four-day growth. Well, I ignored it.
The story finally became about men taking responsibility for their sons. Here, the game of junior league baseball is used as a metaphor for life, and the film, though not containing the entertainment value of The Bad News Bears or The Sandlot, finally engages. Hero isn’t just about working as a team or promoting the You-Gotta-Have-Heart theme. It goes further by sending the message about spending quality time with those you brought into this world. It’s not just about what the players learn, but about the moral lessons busy fathers sometimes lose track of.
The performances are fine, the production values above par, and it’s a clean film you can watch and discuss with the family.
Not rated, the subject matter of stressed relationships between sons and dads may be disturbing to very little ones. I found nothing objectionable.