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|Index||13 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Winning Season is a fantasy which initially focuses on a 12 year
old Little Leaguer, Joe Soshack, whose parents are always bickering due
to the father's lack of success as a breadwinner. While not stated
explicitly, Joe's lack of confidence as a Little Leaguer is linked to
the family's dire economic circumstances.
Joe earns extra money doing chores for Mrs. Young, an elderly woman in the neighborhood. He hopes to buy a 1971 Willie Stargell baseball card who a local baseball card memorabilia dealer has reserved for him at a discount price. Mrs. Young offers him a few bucks to clean out her attic and when Joe finds an extremely rare and valuable Honus Wagner baseball card, he runs home without telling Mrs. Young he's found the card. When his parents tell him that he must return the card, in a fit of greed, Joe grabs his bicycle and pedals off to the local little league field, presumably now a runaway.
At this point in the film, I'm reminded a bit of The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy also runs away because her parental figures don't "understand" her; the same with Joe. But where Dorothy is upset because Miss Gulch has taken Toto away, Joe swipes the Honus Wagner Card more out of basic selfishness. Although he claims he's doing it for his family so they can escape the financial bind they're in, the impulsive act pegs Joe more as a spoiled brat and wholly an unsympathetic character for most of the film. The whole idea is that Joe is simply immature but given the high moral principles the parents live by, I would have thought that he wouldn't have been so selfish.
Time travel fantasies need a clever way for the protagonist to travel back in time. In Back to the Future, Marty travels back in time in a retrofitted DeLorean car. In 'The Winning Season', there's nothing clever in the way Joe goes back in time. He merely stares at the 'magical' Honus Wagner Card and poof, he's back in 1909 right in the middle of the World Series between the Pirates and the Detroit Tigers. And strangely, Joe is no longer 12 year old Joe; he's 25 year old Joe. There's no explanation for the transformation but without it, the film's scenarist will not be able to pull of the clumsy scene in the film's denouement, when Joe takes the place of Honus in the last game of the 1909 World Series.
Whereas the real Honus Wagner was the son of German immigrants and very much a rough and tumble character of his day, Matthew Modine plays him as a generic good guy. Just about the only truly historical fact we learn about Honus Wagner was that he refused to cooperate with a tobacco company who wanted to use his image on baseball cards which they hoped to use in promoting their product. One would have hoped for a more nuanced portrait of Wagner, but the film's scenarist placed him on a pedestal.
In reality, Honus married in 1894 and had three daughters. But in 'The Winning Season', his true love is 'Mandy' who ends up breaking up with him after believing that his true love is baseball. While we find out little about the real life Honus Wagner, we find out next to nothing about the fictional Mandy, a wasted part played by a ditsy Kristin Davis.
The antagonist here is Ty Cobb. While Cobb was known for being overly aggressive on the field and having a bad reputation amongst his fellow ballplayers, he's turned into a virtual criminal when he attempts to blackmail Joe after stealing the Honus Wagner baseball card. Cobb extorts Joe into preventing Honus from playing in the last game of the World Series (it seems highly out of character for the highly competitive Cobb to prevent his arch-rival from competing against him in any game, let alone the World Series!). Joe taking off in the car and leaving Wagner stranded, makes him even more unlikeable (despite the soon and expected redemption!).
Most engaging baseball films involve the focus on one particular moment in a game where the protagonist helps his team go on to victory. In the charming "It Happens Every Spring", Ray Milland, helps his team win the championship by catching a ball with his bare hand; it's an instinctive act of self-sacrifice as he breaks his hand in the process. Unlike that dramatic moment of sacrifice, there's a completely awkward moment in 'The Winning Season' where Joe goes out on the field pretending he's Honus (he can't even fit into Honus's uniform) and no one notices the deception except Ty Cobb.
The ending to 'The Winning Season' is utterly predictable. When Joe returns to the present day 1985, he's 'learned his lesson' and is no longer a self-centered brat. What's more he's become confident (due to the tutelage of the angelic Honus Wagner) and now hits a home run, helping his team win the championship and confound all the kids who've been heckling him as a wimp.
There's a final canard thrown in where Mrs. Young turns out to be the embittered Mandy who on her deathbed regrets breaking up with Honus. Now Joe is willing to make a 'sacrifice' by giving up the magical Honus card which Mandy uses to return to 1909 where she shacks up with Honus. All well and good but if that happened, history would have turned out differently and the young Joe would never have met the spinster Mrs. Young in the first place.
'The Winning Season' admirably attempts to recreate the look of the "Dead Ball" era but as other reviewers have pointed out, little attempt has been made to be historically accurate (yes, why do the Detroit fans cheer when Pittsburgh wins the Series?). 'The Winning Season' could have been something really clever but settles for scenes of predictable sentimentality.
I'm a Pittsburgher with an above average knowledge of the Pirate history and Honus Wagner. Many things about the movie were well done. The recreation of Forbes Field, though imperfect, was better than expected. The portrayal of Wagner seemed to be generally on the mark. The protrayal of Cobb, on the other hand, seemed patentely unfair and overstated like I suspect most modrern-day portrayals of Cobb are. Let's face it though, this movie is above all a kids fantasy as is the book upon which it is based. The story in the book holds together better in my opinion. All that being said I will purchase it for my collection should it ever be released as a DVD.
Other posters are certainly welcome to take me to task for what I am about to say. Based on the commercials, I thought this TV movie was the story of a baseball legend, Honus Wagner. What it actually turned out to be was a muddled fantasy about a boy going back in time to meet Wagner. The boy, who plays baseball but is not very good at it, ends up becoming a much better player for having met Wagner. There's also a Spielbergian subplot involving Wagner's one true love, who got away. Thanks to the boy's intervention, she ends up being reunited with Wagner. The key to all this is a signed baseball card featuring Wagner, worth much dinero and critical to a plot element that has the kid coming from a financially troubled home. Ladies, get your hankies out. Men, drink a brew before approaching this.
I thought this was an excellent movie for families to enjoy together.It is one of hope and excitement of imagination and of life.The direction and the cinematography was really beautifully captured and the era of the early 1900's were shown so realistically. The story follows young Joe Shosak,who is a poor and frustrated 9 year old baseball player and son who just can't seem to find any luck on the field and off.His big break comes in shape of a vintage baseball card of Honus Wagner , mysteriously he is sucked back in time and is in the body of a 25 year old version of himself and winds up face to face with Wagner and his Pirates at the World Series, Pittsburgh 1908.He then befriends and begins to follow Honus and his boys,he meets a devilish Ty Cobb and is faced with many exciting and comedic situations. The acting was genuine by all the cast.Matthew Modine is a great Wagner,playing him with a wink and smile,his love interest is played charmingly by Kristen Davis,and I especially enjoyed the endearing performance of Ryan Hollyman as the nervous pitcher. I would strongly recommend this movie to all who enjoy baseball and good old fashion family movies.
The direction on this TBS TV movie is good, the performances are fine, the
photography is handsome and interesting, but the script is a bit of a
muddled mess. Nominally about life lessons and the importance of
your dreams, the movie turns into a rather mushy and ill-defined
wish-fulfillment fantasy all around.
Joe's family is suffering through a bout of poverty when he comes across a rare baseball card of Honus Wagner worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. But the card does not solve his family's financial problems. Instead it sends him back to the 1909 World Series where he meets Wagner, and makes him several years older. Then later, after it appears to have all been a dream, it works further, concrete magic. This is a problem with ill-defined fantasy: if it can do anything, then it fails to keep the story's allegorical sense straight.
The script is a bit better at hinting at the complexities of life as a professional ballplayer in the era that saw Wagner and Ty Cobb square off against each other in the World Series, but the main story is a bit random. Perhaps the novel it was drawn from simply had too many subplots for the screenwriter to handle elegantly.
There are all sorts of problems with this movie, which I will leave for
others to point out.
At its best, this movie tells a wonderful story, that of a little boy who loves baseball but isn't very good at it. He is granted an astounding opportunity, that he doesn't even ask for: he gets to play baseball with one of the early greats, Honus Wagner, against one of the early Satans - and greats - Ty Cobb. It is every little boy's fantasy, and he gets to live it.
The rest of the movie is sentimental, like a Hallmark Hall of Fame special. That's all very nice, of course.
But the little boy's fantasy, which will be understood by any man who has not grown so old as to have forgotten what it was like to be a little boy, is golden.
I have no idea if this movie has anything to say to women. Perhaps not. I've never been a woman, so I can't say.
But if you were ever a little boy and loved baseball, no matter how bad you were at it, this movie has a lot to say to you.
"The Winning Season" is a nice family movie whose plot seems to be a
mix between two classic from the 1980's and even includes a similar
"choose love or game" theme just like as "For the Love of Game". Here a
kid (Mark Rendall) living in 1985 (where another famous film about time
travel was released) has the magical chance to see many famous baseball
players of the past (in 1909) after discovering a magical baseball card
of Honus Wagner (Matthew Modine), and this card could solve all his
family financial problems.
Instead of being a kid he's somehow is transformed into a young men, played by Shawn Hatosy, who is marveled by this time travel but he desperately wants to get home in the future. In the meantime he lives with Wagner and his future bride (Kristin Davis) and he has the chance to met notorious baseball players including Ty Cobb (William Lee Scott) and watch many incredible games.
The film is good, has a good message despite making a plot loan of many other great films (it's very similar to "Field of Dreams"), it's very charming, has some good humor moments and it's very delightful to see it.
The acting of the ensemble casting is good, although I enjoyed more of the boy's performance than Shawn playing him as a grow man. William Lee Scott was very interesting playing Cobb, the movie's antagonist.
Anyway, it's enjoyable in many ways, "The Winning Season" is a very positive TV movie. 9/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I love baseball, I love baseball history, and I love time travel stories, so of course I would love this movie. Well done with the appropriate lessons learnt at the end, and of course I loved the recreation of baseball in 1909, and the CGI was very well done. A few niggling points whenever they wanted to show a moment of victory on the baseball field of 1909, the batter hits a home run or a ball deep into the outfield. That just wasn't the way they played ball in 1909, in the middle of the dead ball era. It was a time of slap hits and advancing the runner along the base path, one at a time. And Honus was definitely better-looking in the film than reality; in truth he was known for his awkwardness and bow-legged stance. He was also one of these people who looked old when they were young. A romantic Honus is a strange concept. On the other hand, I think the portrayal of Cobb was right on. I don't know who said this of him, but "he was possessed by the furies." (Another quote that Ken Burns mentioned was used in the film, "Baseball is something like a war.") That's how Ty played. The 1909 Series was looked upon as the confrontation between baseball's two biggest players. Honus had been playing since 1897, but Ty had broken into the majors in 1905. They could have mentioned that Ty's batting average in the series was something like .230, while Honus' was about .360. It was a real victory for Honus maybe his greatest moment of his career. Another small gripe is that there is a character in 1909 how turns out to be a character in present time. This is obvious within 10 minutes but is presented as a huge revelation at the end. As I said, these are niggling points, and I would recommend this film to anyone, and intend to watch my DVD a few more times.
I just want to say that I love this movie. But I also want to say that
it's a movie not be taken seriously. It's a fantasy. It's a baseball
fantasy. Just like "Field of Dreams." As a pseudo baseball historian, I
appreciate the details given to the baseball uniforms, the player's
gloves and catcher's equipment and both team's stadiums. I also like
how the stadiums were depicted in a neighborhood setting with the
surrounding industries, which in 1909, they were. I admit that the
movie does try to convey a message that takes awhile to get across. But
once it does, it all makes sense and it makes you smile if you can
forgive the historical inaccuracies.
This movie won't go down in history as a all-time great, but it will always be one of my favorites.
The premise of the film was promising and the performances
were engaging, but the script was a confusing mess. A baseball
card makes the main character travel back in time - okay, we'll go
with it - but why does the character also become older? There is
no reason for this except for the fact that he has to impersonate
Honus Wagner on the field late in the film, which is totally
unbelievable whatever his age.
Then at the end the card lets an old woman return to be with Wagner, her one true love. Is she travelling back in time or merely joining him in some spiritual ghost world? By that time it's hard to care.
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