NEW YORK (OSV News) – Underdog stories have a broad appeal, especially when they occur in real life. So the tale of Texan Rickey Hill’s against-the-odds struggle to become a major league baseball player should, potentially, make for an engaging film. As the drama “The Hill” (Briarcliff) demonstrates, however, theory is one thing, execution another.
Viewers will undoubtedly sympathize with the youthful protagonist of director Jeff Celentano’s earnest profile, played by Jesse Berry as a boy in the 1960s and by Colin Ford as an early-70s high schooler. They’ll be rooting for Rickey as he faces down the formidable obstacles he will have to overcome to achieve his dream.
These include both daunting physical disabilities and the determined opposition of his evangelical minister father, James (Dennis Quaid), who wants Rickey to take to the pulpit, not the diamond. For reasons not fully explored, James also seems to regard America’s pastime as some sort of heathenish enterprise, perhaps because it’s sometimes played on Sundays.
Sustained by faith, and by the unwavering support of his childhood sweetheart, Grace (Siena Bjornerud), Rickey battles on toward his goal. As he does so, screenwriters Angelo Pizzo and Scott Marshall Smith keep objectionable elements to a minimum, making Rickey’s biography a suitable offering for teens as well as grown-ups.
Yet, as admirable as the filmmakers’ evident intentions are, their movie makes for an awkward piece of entertainment. There’s a starchy tone to the proceedings that diminishes the emotional impact of Rickey’s travails. And the main characters’ penchant for sententiously quoting scripture further dilutes the production’s effectiveness.
While aesthetic craft may be lacking in these respects, “The Hill” does, nonetheless, constitute uplifting fare. Naive but generally wholesome, it’s a pleasant diversion with an inspiring – and implicitly pro-life – takeaway.
The film contains a single use of profanity and a couple of instances each of milder swearing and crass language. The OSV News classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
John Mulderig is media reviewer for OSV News. Follow him on Twitter @JohnMulderig1.