This occasionally charming tale of a Little League team from the wrong side of the tracks and the drifter/coach who nurtures them could have hit a home run, but instead settles for a double, and falters somewhere around the fifth inning. Lack of focus and loose plot threads weaken the telepic.

This occasionally charming tale of a Little League team from the wrong side of the tracks and the drifter/coach who nurtures them could have hit a home run, but instead settles for a double, and falters somewhere around the fifth inning. Lack of focus and loose plot threads weaken the telepic.

Boys in need of a coach for their summer baseball team, led by Beau (an appealing Kuawela Acocella), have just about given up when they see a man (Burt Reynolds) in left field. The other kids are dubious, but Beau convinces them the mystery man’s appearance is a sign from God, and they call the near-catatonic man Jack (for Jackie Robinson). Beau even fixes Jack up with his mother, Nancy Lee (Reba McEntire, in an adequate perf).

The relationship between Jack and the kids is nice, but there are too many baseball practice scenes, and they’re too long. Time would have been better spent exploring Jack’s past.

Questions abound. Is he the dangerous escapee from the state hospital mentioned in radio reports? Is he the baseball player whose card is shown in extreme close-up? How come no one is more worried or interested about this guy who is spending all this time with their kids?

A dive into a river to save a drowning boy triggers a flood of memories for Jack. In a ludicrous scene that smacks of sheer sloth on the writer’s part, Jack starts babbling about his past.

It would have been more satisfying to see Jack struggle more with his lack of identity, his search for one, and his attempt to pick up his old life.

Because Jack remembers who he is in such a contrived fashion, there is little tension to the pic, and not enough mystery about him.

Reynolds seems to share Jack’s amnesia: he has forgotten how to move his face. Obviously, his performance suffers.

In addition to Acocella, another standout among the boys is Adam Cronan, who plays the abused, proud Bama.

Reynolds’ direction is fine, given the troubled script.

The Man from Left Field

(Fri. (15), 9-11 p.m. CBS)

Production

Filmed in Jupiter and Indiantown, Fla., by Burt Reynolds Prods. Exec producers, Burt Reynolds, Lamar Jackson, Renee Valente; producer, Wayne A. Rice, Valente; director, Reynolds; writer, Wayne A. Rice.

Crew

Camera, Nick McLean; editor, Tony Hayman; production designer, Beala Neal; sound, Joe Foglia; music, Bobby Goldsboro.

Cast

With: Burt Reynolds, Reba McEntire, Kuawela Acocella, Derek Baxter, Adam Cronan, Sean Dunne, Billy Gardner III, Adam Ohren, Tino Taylor, Bradley Barfield , Jonathan Bouck, Suzanne Dodd, Clarence Goss, Danny Green, Brian Iannitti, Ken Kay, Tom Kouchalakos, Richard Lepore, Marc Macaulay, Michael O'Smith, Avery Sommers, David Berardi, Gene Deckerhoff, Jennifer Kays, C. James Lewis, Vic Prinzi, Aaron Vaughn.

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