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Rounding First

A number of nascent talents gather around a story that never quite makes it to home base in "Rounding First," a kid flick featuring three youths -- all of whom have high-profile experience already and might be going somewhere in film. Good fare for family-minded fests, pic is more likely to end up on cable than at the multiplex.

With:
With: Matt Borish, Soren Fulton, Sam Semenza, John Michael Bolger, Michael Dean, Deborah Lee Johnson, Michael E. Knight, Jo Mercer, Robert X. Golphin, Scott Lawrence.

A number of nascent talents gather around a story that never quite makes it to home base in “Rounding First,” a kid flick featuring three youths — all of whom have high-profile experience already and might be going somewhere in film. Good fare for family-minded fests, pic is more likely to end up on cable than at the multiplex.

Pleasantly loping pic centers on initially playful but increasingly consequential shenanigans of a Pennsylvania trio of 12-year-olds, whose wisecracking banter gives “Rounding” its rhythm. Normal kid Joe (Soren Fulton of “Thunderbirds”) is the glue holding together the threesome including cranky fat Chris (Sam Semenza, a regular on “The Sopranos”) and Tiger (cast standout Matt Borish, who was in CBS’s “Hack” series).

Chris is an overly cautious complainer, while Tiger always edges toward trouble — a tendency that seems to be intensified by the fact his single dad is a hard-drinking, gun-waving cop (“Third Watch’s” John Michael Bolger, who adds a dark gravity to the story). Tiger’s older brother was mysteriously killed some years back, while Joe is haunted by the absence of his brother, although the older sibling does call from London every once in a while.

When Joe’s parents threaten to break up the threesome for an unknown reason, the boys spy some mysterious letters from Philadelphia and decide to go there to figure out for themselves what’s going on.

On the long ride from Allentown (where most of pic was shot), the boys manage to lose their bikes and get picked up by a roguish young fellow (Michael Dean) who promptly holds up a roadside convenience store. With their bag of candy making them accomplices — or hostages, they’re not sure which — the boys hit the highway for some adventurous life lessons.

Things wrap in an unexpectedly tenseway, before the kids get back to baseball . Tricky shifts in tone are smoothed over by helmer-scripter Jim Fleigner’s careful handling of his underage leads.

Tech credits look and sound better than meager budget involved, but auds are still left wondering about unfinished plot points. Although it doesn’t really examine the issues at hand, theviolent subtext of the back story will prove troubling to parents of younger viewers, leaving the pic a somewhat narrow marketing space between second and third base.

Popular on Variety

Rounding First

Production: A Hangin' Hams production. (International sales: Hangin' Hams Prods., Santa Monica.) Produced by Jim Fleigner, Laura Ferretti. Directed, written, edited by Jim Fleigner.

Crew: Camera (color), Bradley Traver; music, Ludek Drizhal; production designer, Jeff Ridy; costume designer, Suzan Checksfield; sound (Dolby), Ye Zhang; assistant director, Jason Rody. Reviewed at Hawaii Film Festival (Gala), Oct. 29, 2005. Running time: 97 MIN.

With: With: Matt Borish, Soren Fulton, Sam Semenza, John Michael Bolger, Michael Dean, Deborah Lee Johnson, Michael E. Knight, Jo Mercer, Robert X. Golphin, Scott Lawrence.

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