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This movie is about determination, loyalty and team spirit that won't die in a small town.
JMRichardson12 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I was at Tribeca the weekend of 4-28 & 4-29-07 and saw The Final Season the first night. A large number of the audience were from Norway, Iowa, some appearing in the movie as extras so during the opening scenes, they were cheering not only the movie but themselves and their town as well. It was quite touching to see.

The Final Season is the true story of the 1991 Norway High School baseball team's attempt to win a 20th consecutive state title before their school merged with a larger district nearby. Sean Astin in the lead role plays Kent Stock, the head coach for this final season of play after the previous head coach had been removed. *Mild Spoiler* The early part of the movie sets up the excellence of the previous team so after the new coach takes over, things are different, the kids become discouraged and challenge him, forcing Sean (Stock) to quite literally step up to the plate. (Sean speaks about this scene at the Q & A after-wards) This is an upbeat, feel-good sort of movie and at times I found myself on the edge of my seat and at the ending I applauded enthusiastically with the rest of the audience.

I liked all the performances of the actors; Tom Arnold and Powers Boothe were both good. I think Michael Angarano who played the part of Mitch Akers a young troubled player stole every scene he was in; he was outstanding! Sean's role is under-stated but believable as the coach and I can envision him in this role in real life (with his daughters). He has a couple of too brief love scenes with Rachel Leigh Cook.
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10/10
A Very Good Movie with a Lot Baseball Feeling
Ghostface268 June 2008
This is a Great Baseball Movie, and all peoples who have the sport of Baseball in their blood will love this film.

Passion, friendship, loyalty, family , all we have in this movie, but specially, a good feeling about baseball, the favorite pass time of all us.

I'm from Dominican Republic, where we live the baseball, and we are proud to have ball players like Albert Pujols, Pedro Martinez, Alex Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero, Sammy Sosa and others in the MLB, and like i said, we live the feeling and the passion of baseball.. Baseball it's so important to us, and with this movie, we can know the importance of something like that in a town and in our Life.

Baseball for much of us , the baseball fans, it's not only a sport, it's more than that, it's passion, it's feeling, It's Proud...

The movie have a very good acting and good script..

Playball!.....
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9/10
cliché'
jrcallaway23 October 2007
What I find tired and Cliché' about all this is the critics response. Though not necessarily an Oscar film, the movie is enjoyable and though obviously some of the story was embellished, the things that they would say are cliché' actually happened. The reviewer posted in the IMDb page calls it a rub in Iowa's face. As an Iowan, I didn't feel that way. It does however point out the idiocy of allowing politicians be in control of education and schools, they always seem to think Money = good education, sports is a big part of the education process and obviously this was not a good choice for a town that loves its baseball. Sorry but I don't share the opinion that this pleads the death of underdog films. It points out an Amazing accomplishment, against all the odds and that is exactly the attraction of underdog films... Unfortunately it seems that there was a lack of good planning on the promoting/advertising of the film.
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8/10
Excellent, good cast, good story
mrohlee14 October 2007
The story of a small town high school baseball team in the school's last year. The school, against the wishes of the towns people will be closed and the students transferred to another town's larger school. Sean Austin looking and acting like Vic Morrow has to pull together the depressed, fragmented team. The whole cast contributes. The focus is on the baseball team but it gives a nice picture of life in a small farming community. Tom Arnold is really effective in a small role. This shows what can be done with a small budget and no special effects. I will definitely buy this when it comes out on DVD.

The movie has the climax in the big state championship game. The fact that a town with 500+ people could have a high school state champion baseball team once is something but this one had 19. The opposing teams pitcher was unbeaten in the regular season. The person playing the pitcher was excellent. He just had one line but the expressions and body language was very effective. I liked it quite a lot.

I am sorry to say that I never saw this advertised and I think there was 3 other people in theater. The only reason I saw it was because I had a free pass and the movies I really wanted to see weren't accepting passes yet. After the movie I felt like going back and giving them the $8. It's a good movie but due to either no big stars or no money for advertising most people will never hear of it.
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8/10
Wonderfully acted and directed
SqueakyCheeky8 October 2007
I just saw it tonight at a sneak preview in Baltimore and it was great. I borrowed my best friend's husband as my date since he's into baseball and she's not. I expected it to be okay but schmaltzy and was pleasantly surprised. It never got too hokey, the humor was great and every character "popped" from the bald reporter (Larry Miller) to the bat boy who got laughs every time just by nodding his head. The grandparents were especially cute the way they picked on each other. I think my favorite part was seeing the pastor with a "doo rag" on his head as a disguise. The performances were uniformly excellent. Sean Astin was great as usual and Michael Angarano has really grown into quite the performer. Highly recommended.
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10/10
One of the best baseball movies ever
bfritch5526 April 2008
This is one of the best baseball movies I have ever seen. It is not only very inspirational but heartwarming and asks a very personal question that we must all answer-"what do you want to be remembered for."

Kent Stock takes a very difficult situation of having to motivate the players of Norway High School with them facing their final season of the baseball program, let alone, the final year of their high school ever existing again, and motivates his players to play up to their best potential in capturing an astounding record 20th state championship in Iowa baseball.

This movie should be shown to every high school baseball team whether they be a large, medium, or small school, as well as shown to every coach, no matter what level of athletes they coach.
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9/10
A fantastic baseball story
amalmer24 July 2008
"The Final Season," from the director of the Sandlot, is based on the true story of the Norway, Iowa high school baseball team. Norway is a small Iowa town who holds a lot of pride in its baseball team, who has won 19 state titles in 24 years. When the school board threatens to merge the school with the large school of Madison, the town is enraged. They disagree with all of the boards claims and reasons for merging the school, and hate to see their baseball team and players disappear. Will the team get to play another season? Will the school be merged, or will it stay independent? The acting is pretty good, although at times the actors seem to be reading off a prompter. These incidents are few and far apart, however. The movie is a bit predictable, but isn't that the nature of sports films? It is still a fantastic movie that will be enjoyed by not only baseball fans, but sports fans is general. I recommend this movie for all ages. The film overall is inspiring, emotional, and entertaining. I strongly recommend you see this movie.
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8/10
It's Not Over Until The Last Bat Swings
wordsmith_574 July 2008
There are a lot of harsh reviews on this film, and it is puzzling. Sure the film has a formula feel to it, but considering how it is based on a true story, how could it not follow the standard underdog formula? The film caught the flavor of the David and Goliath aspect from many points. Small town school wins consistently against larger schools at the state champ level, second choice coach filling shoes of veteran favorite coach, town versus state politics, and the list goes on. The movie is entertaining and inspiring--look for those moments. Iowa and baseball go together and the movie captures the importance of baseball to a small town like Norway, Iowa. Sean Astin gives a likable performance as coach Kent Scott. Form your opinion and don't be swayed by the negative reviews. The baseball scenes are worth the watch all in their own.
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6/10
Decent, but not great
intelearts7 April 2008
Baseball is the perfect metaphor the American Dream: effort = success, anyone can play, and winning is a metaphor for life.

The Last Season is a nice effort by Sean Astin. It is pretty much exactly what a good sports underdog movie should be.

The film about Norway, based on fact, a tiny town of 500 or so that produced team after team that went onto win the State Championship for High School baseball. When threatened with politics and closure due to lack of funding the team does what it knows best, goes in to bat for one last season.

Have to be honest though and say it's not as inspiring as it would like to be in places, it does hit some good home runs by the end, but overall it is a little too clichéd to really succeed.

If sports movies are your thing then you'll enjoy it, but I don't think this will become anyone's (Outside of Iowa) favorite ever movie.

It is a nice effort, and watchable, but as I said it ain't outstanding...
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9/10
Film displays the beauty of Iowa High School Baseball
spartanbaseballvoice28 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This film tells the story of the Norway High School baseball team, who is looking to end their baseball dynasty with their 20th state championship. As an Iowa native, I knew I had to see this film, and I was not disappointed one bit. I will use the same line Boston Celtic legend Larry Bird used when he described the movie Hoosiers "Those guys got it right". A lot of the lessons that Sean Astin's character learns from the old coach are the same lessons that our head coach at Spalding High School taught us. It showed the passion that the people of Norway, just like the fans in many Iowa small towns (Lansing, Granville, Bancroft, etc) will drop everything to go to the games on Friday nights and will travel hundreds of miles to see their teams play for a state championship.
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9/10
The Final Season Homers Out of the Ballpark ****
edwagreen16 December 2009
No, it's not another "Bang the Drum Slowly," but like Slowly, it's an excellent baseball picture that has everything including a strong small town in Iowa, a contentious board meeting, love blossoming between two opposing forces, a memorable superintendent, and a baseball team that just wouldn't quit, even though they see their beloved high school closed to join a larger school.

The main surprise in the movie is the role of Powers Boothe, the coach who was replaced because his wife dared to start a petition drive not to close the school. After about 40 minutes of the film, he is rarely seen again. Boothe gives a restrained but compelling performance as the replaced coach of a team with 19 straight division titles.

Along with the major plot, we have a rebellious youth who is sent to live with his grandparents. Obviously, the young man finds himself through the baseball team.

Cohesiveness and town unity is what makes this film so good.
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10/10
On the edge of our seats
tdint2 January 2009
Our family watched this movie and we were on the edge of our seats through the final credits. It's an inspiring story, and a well-executed movie. And it has deeper meaning than just baseball. We (two adults and a 10 and a 12 year old) all thought it was fabulous, gripping, and so fun to watch. And we then did some web research after watching it to learn more about the baseball program in the tiny town of Norway, which has been so successful for decades. Thank you to those who put this movie together, since it was a real treat for the audience! Whether you're into baseball (we are) or not, I think you'll enjoy the excitement of this story, the accomplishments of kids from a tiny town, and the challenges presented by mindless bureaucrats to life in small, agricultural towns.
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6/10
Worth a look
ginadaytona30 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I wish I could rate this movie better than a 6. The cinematography is beautiful, the acting is competent, the story is true. The baseball scenes are exciting, which makes the second half of the movie quite good. Unfortunately, the first half suffers from a mediocre script and glacial pacing.

The movie didn't need the romantic subplots (any of them). It really didn't need the wayward teenager sent to live with the farmer grandparents either. Rachel Leigh Cook's character lacks credibility in her romantic interest in the young assistant coach and in her career about-face.

It's a good baseball movie. It's also a good movie about small town values and how a winning high school sports team can energize a town that is hanging on by its teeth. Once you get past the plodding pace of the first half, it is a worthy entry in the genre of under dog sports movies.
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7/10
Not enough time for this story
kaptmorgin28 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Even though I found many faults, I still gave this movie an 8. I am fond of inspirational sports movies. The problem with this one is that it needed to be one of those HBO 3 part series, or a season series, like "The Bronx is burning", or something. One minute, this outcast/rebel from Chicago (Mitch)shows up, smoking, asking for weed, stealing his grandpas truck, not getting along with the grandparents, the next min. he is a liked baseball player, pal-ing around with grandpops. They needed to either get more into his character, or just cut it out of the story. They did this with a few characters. One min. Powers Booth's character is fighting in the town hall for his team, and school, the next, he is coaching a different school. Rachel Cooks character. She is all about getting rid of this school, 2 mins later, she wants it to stay. It makes you feel that no one in this town sticks to their convictions. They really needed to show more about each character. Great story though. I had never heard of this movie, and was flicking through channels, and happen to catch the beginning. To me, it was just another boring baseball story, until halfway through, I noticed that it was a true story, and that is what made it much better for me.
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8/10
Good clean fun...
mark-440130 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
All too often we forget about the small towns not only in this country, but in the world. These folks have deep roots and incredible values.

This movie captures this feel with the pure atmosphere brought forth. Well directed, well cast, and from what I can tell... accurate.

The movie was refreshing as it told about everyday people living in everyday America believing in "something".

(spoiler alert) The kid from Chicago who "finds himself" in Norway was a nice twist... however I am not sure if it was accurate. Perhaps someone who knows more about Norway High Baseball can answer that. If indeed it was an add-on... I am not sure how I feel about that. Perhaps it was needed to keep the movie going, or perhaps it represented all of us that have moved from small towns to large metropolitan areas (like me).

Bottom line... a good enjoyable family movie! (Thumbs up)
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Nice family movie, a small town school's final baseball season.
TxMike7 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Norway, Iowa. Sounds incongruous. I had never heard of "that" Norway. But apparently over the years this small farming town of 500 or so and their small school had won more than its fair share of state baseball championships, under the leadership and motivation of a few different coaches.

But now, 1990, the regional school board planned to shut down that small school and consolidate it with a nearby larger school for the economies of scale. Naturally the students and townsfolk alike were dead set against the plan.

Powers Boothe is excellent as coach Jim Van Scoyoc, and so that the school "would fall flat on it face" for its final season, his job was eliminated early. In his place Sean Astin as Kent Stock, who was a teacher and girls volleyball coach, was made the Norway baseball coach for its last season.

That part of the school board plan did not work because Stock had been an excellent baseball player in his younger days, and now seemed to have the knack for organizing and motivation these boys of Norway.

Rachael Leigh Cook is one of my favorite young actresses and she is good as part of the antagonist school board group but she eventually comes over to the Norway side, and befriends Stock.

This is a good family movie without cursing and sex, and only passing references to beer and cigarettes. It is also based on real people and real events, although certainly some of it must be fictionalized for the movie-making process.

SPOILERS: Norway had an up and down final season, but managed to work their way into the championship game. The other team's pitcher was a major league talent, with a 90+ mph fastball, and the team was a virtual one-man show. But Norway managed to tie the game in the 7th, sending it to extra innings, which they won with a suicide squeeze with a man on third. This was their 20th championship, in 1991, and the school closed as planned. The new, consolidated school has never won a championship.
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8/10
Small town pride in its high school baseball team.
Michael O'Keefe22 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Based on a true story with the expected liberties. A refreshing story of a small town with a legacy about to die. The Norway High School Tigers baseball team, led by legendary Coach Jim Van Scoyoc(Powers Boothe), has won 19 Iowa State Championships, but rumors of a merger with a neighboring school district has the citizens of Norway very upset with the school authorities...fearing the town will wither without the pride in their traditional baseball team. Coach Van Scoyoc is fired and his assistant for a half of a season, Kent Stock(Sean Astin)is hired to coach the team for its final season. Going against heavy odds, Norway will get the chance to revel in glory one last time and go out a winner in 1991. Character development is not all that great. And a clean cut PG flick just doesn't always garner cheers and ovations. But THE FINAL SEASON does have what it takes to entertain and inspire everyone. Besides Boothe and Astin there is some quality work turned in by Michael Angarano, Rachael Leigh Cook and James Gammon. Also in the cast: Tom Arnold, Larry Miller, Danielle Savre and Brett Claywell.
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6/10
Good Story, Bad Follow-through
Polishleprechan11 June 2008
Until I saw this movie, I thought inspirational sports movies were easy to make, but this movie made it seem otherwise. I was expecting more from a movie with such a good cast, but even they couldn't save this movie from destruction.

The main thing that ruined the movie was the screenplay. The story itself was inspirational but the sequence of events and the actual writing took that story and chopped it up into pieces. It almost seemed as though the writer had gone around to the people involved in the actual story and written down exactly what they said presented as a screenplay, not bothering to smooth and connect events.

Attempting to include everyone in the story, the character development was also lacking. One minute Mitch(Michael Angarano) was the mean outcast, and the next he was a mannerly star on the baseball team. It was too short of a period in the movie for the change to be believable.

Worse than the screenplay and bad character development was the score. Not one moment was the movie devoid of cheesy "inspirational" music. It is okay to use at the climax or a dramatic moment in the movie, but when it is played throughout the movie relentlessly, it loses its impact. It made the movie a joke. The movie would have been better off with no music at all. It ruined any and all touching scenes.

The only reason I give this movie a 6/10 is because through all of the mistakes, there was a fire lit in the viewer that wanted to fight for this small town team and see them succeed.
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3/10
The Ultimate Movie Review! - http://tss5078.blogspot.com - @tss5078
Tss507810 January 2017
A baseball movie, based on a true story, Directed by the same guy who brought the Sandlot to life on the big screen, who could ask for more? Norway, Iowa, one of the smallest towns in the mid-west, with a fabled sports history. Their High School baseball team is one of the most successful high school baseball teams of all-time, and their coach, Jim Van Scoyoc (Powers Boothe), is a legend, who could be coaching in the Major Leagues if he wanted to. Small towns like Norway always have their fair share of problems, mainly money, and with this town near bankruptcy, they've agreed to merge with a larger town, which means only one last season of baseball in Norway, and without the expensive contract of coach Van Scoyoc. The coach eventually convinces his former assistant, Kent Stock (Sean Astin), to take over the team, and attempt to lead them to one last championship, but with the town about to disappear from the map, how will he motivate the players or the town to care? This is one of those stories that is as inspirational as it gets, and it should have been a fantastic movie, but it was not. I have never in my life seen a movie centered around a sport, that moves as slowly as this film does. The Final Season is full of heart to heart chats, court fights about the town, and of course Sean Astin's character. I enjoy Sean Astin, after all he is the star of my all-time favorite movie, but his character is this introvert, who is in way over his head to begin with, not to mention the fact that he's replacing this living legend. Astin or rather Astin portraying Stock was just boring, just once I would have liked to see the guy, explode, show some fire, be a real coach, because it was like watching a math teacher, coach a bunch of kids, that didn't really want to be there for much of the film. The Final Season is a great true story, but as a film, it's more talk than anything else, and fails to even come close to expectations.
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Inspiring, mostly good
vchimpanzee29 June 2015
In this fact-based story set in 1990, Kent Stock is the women's volleyball coach it Belle Plaine High School in Iowa. He is asked by his former baseball coach, the legendary Jim Van Scoyoc, to assist during part of the season. Norway School, with 101 students (we do see little kids in the building, so apparently it's all 12 grades), has won 19 1A state baseball championships, 12 under Van Scoyoc. Baseball is so popular in the town of 586 that fans come to practices.

Despite the long baseball tradition, in an effort to save money and give the kids a better education, the school board wants to merge tiny Norway School with a larger school 20 miles away. This will hurt the community badly and prevent many of the kids from playing baseball.

Polly graduated from law school, and it's never made quite clear what her job title is, but she is the expert who explains the school board's decision. She is attractive but doesn't really show it at first, and Kent seems to like her. Plus he hopes to persuade her to look at other communities where the same thing has happened.

The town of Norway will make every effort to save their school. It is agreed the change won't happen right away, but the baseball team will get one more season, and not under Van Scoyoc. Kent has left town for a new job in St. Louis (he appears to be working at a bank), but Van Scoyoc wants him to take the coaching job. This is fine with those in charge, who see Kent as a Clark Kent type (he corrected someone who got his name wrong by saying Kent, like Clark). However, he may turn out to be more of a Tom Welling than a Christopher Reeve. And he hasn't given up on Polly, either.

Burt played for Van Scoyoc years ago but runs a business in Chicago. Having lost his wife, he can't handle his rebellious son Mitch on his own, so he brings Mitch to live with his parents Jared and Anne. And, yes, he can play baseball.

Mitch hates being in this hick town but eventually learns to adjust, and Cindy, sister to the team's star Patrick, seems to like him. And Van Scoyoc, just a shop teacher, won't tolerate less than Mitch's best effort.

Some of the team members quit when Van Scoyoc leaves for a minor-league job. Others continue to play but seem ready to quit, and it appears Norway will be a bunch of losers in their last season playing baseball. But this loser of a coach won't quit, and he may turn out to be Superman after all.

Many obstacles stand in the team's way, but can they win another state title? And will the school be saved?

This is an inspiring movie, but it seems to leave out a few details. If there is a major weakness, it is jumping ahead in time too quickly and not really showing us what happened. We are just left to assume.

Sean Astin does an adequate job, and he improves toward the end, but his is not the standout performance.

Powers Boothe as the legendary coach could have gotten an Oscar nomination with the same performance in a more visible movie.

James Gammon does a great job as Mitch's grandfather, tough and conservative but loving with a sense of humor.

Josh Merino is a talented opposing pitcher on his way to pro ball. With his performance, the camera work, the editing, and the writing, he comes across as an outstanding villain in just a few scenes.

Tom Arnold starts out as little more than comic relief but, while he's not around much, he shows he is a capable father who's just in over his head.

Rachael Leigh Cook gets prettier and easier to like as time goes on. She's pretty good too.

When this movie is exciting, it's really exciting. Believe me when I say most of the final scenes live up to that.

It's a worthwhile effort.
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2/10
Final Season Leads Underdog Films to Strike Out
GoneWithTheTwins15 October 2007
The underdog story, usually based on true events, is a winning formula that plays up to the audience and never gets old. It sparks a note of hope, triumph and determination, and resonates with audiences worldwide. At least that's what I thought before viewing The Final Season. Never has an uplifting underdog film been so formulaic, dull, trite and uninspiring.

Kent Stock (Sean Astin) is invited to assistant coach the last few weeks for the Norway, Iowa high school baseball season, and is thrilled to rejoin his longtime friend and coach Jim Van Scoyoc (Powers Boothe). The state school board decides that, due to costs, it is necessary for the Norway school to be absorbed by the Madison District, thereby ending the Norway baseball team and its 19 years of winning the state championships. When Harvey Makepeace (Marshall Bell) strikes a deal with Scoyoc to allow one more season of baseball provided he retire from coaching, Stock steps up to take over and re-instill pride and determination to the discouraged townsfolk and their heroic baseball team.

Attempting to cash in on the successes of films like We Are Marshall and Invincible, The Final Season has finally forced the underdog film to strike out. Similar to the huge slew of Asian horror films remade for America that slowly dwindled away due to repetitiveness and monotony, The Final Season manages to destroy the bright spirit and winning combination of a crestfallen team paired with an unlikely coach set on taking them to victory.

In general these films are predictable, simply because it's not an underdog film if the main characters don't come from behind to win. But The Final Season takes repetition and generic qualities way past second base. The characters are all recycled versions of substandard cardboard cutouts, and the conflict in the film is pointless. The school isn't being threatened to be shut down – it IS being shut down, so the only thing the baseball team struggles for is to go out on top. But that will only glorify a community pastime that is destined for extinction, and no sympathy comes from the real-life town. As evidenced by the final notes in the end credits, Madison High School has never won a state championship, and all of the schools in Iowa combined have never won as many baseball trophies as Norway. Way to rub it in Iowa's face.

And finally, perhaps the most noticeably horrific aspect of The Final Season is its acting. Powers Boothe delivers every line as if he's reading a teleprompter and delivers as much range and emotion as the grass in the outfield. Sean Astin likewise looks as if he was tortured into playing the role of Kent, and Rachael Leigh Cook is laughably cliché. All of the characters and themes are overly preachy and nearly every line of dialogue sounds quoted from cutting room footage from other abominable films. The disgruntled young rebel ball player, Mitch, is unlikable and paltry, and his sudden reformation appears provoked by nothing more than a wink from a cute girl. All in all, The Final Season is a disastrously sub par film, caught trying to steal home plate and embarrassingly tagged out, marking the pleading death of these underdog films.

  • Mike Massie (MoviePulse.net)
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4/10
Yawn
Roland E. Zwick21 December 2010
Based on a true story that took place in the spring of 1991, "The Final Season" is a soggy, inspirational drama about a sports-obsessed town that plays like a baseball version of "Friday Night Lights" – minus the lights, minus the Friday nights, and minus the quality, that is.

Sean Astin plays Kent Stock, the assistant coach of the Norway Tigers, a team that's won the Iowa state championship nineteen years running, despite the fact that the school has only 101 students and the town itself only 586 citizens. When the dastardly powers-that-be vote to close the school and fire the coach, the far less experienced Stock steps into the breach to lead the team to its twentieth and final state title. Powers Boothe costars as the legendary ex-coach who spends most of his time delivering corny speeches about how baseball has been bery, bery good to him. To add spice to the drama, Michael Angarano is a troubled teen whose recently widowed, work-obsessed father (Tom Arnold) brings him to Norway to live with his grandparents, whereupon the recalcitrant lad becomes a key player on the team and turns into a model citizen.

The simpleminded screenplay by Art D'Allesandro is riddled with stereotypes and clichés, while David Mickey Evans' plodding direction drives what little drama there is in the story straight into the ground. And a likable cast is left high and dry with nothing of substance to work with.

Tune into the latest weekly installment of FNL instead.
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5/10
Made by people who forgot what "Rocky" was really about
MBunge2 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The Final Season is like an ugly puppy. If you stand back and really look at it…sure, you can see that its legs are too short, its body too long, its eyes bug out a little and it's drooling on the carpet. But if you let it jump up and lick you in the face, it's just too darn lovable to care.

The movie is about the high school baseball team from Norway, Iowa which won its 19th state championship in 1990 but was facing a school merger that would make 1991 the last year for the school and the team. Sean Astin plays Kent Stock, who took over for legendary coach Jim Van Scoyoc (Powers Boothe) to try and lead the team to a 20th state title.

What will strike you most about The Final Season is how obviously in love the filmmakers are with that story and with the small town life in Iowa that gave birth to it. This wasn't a movie anyone made because they thought it would hit it big at the box office or win them any awards or critical praise. This is a film made because people just really wanted to share a story with the rest of the world. Which makes it very odd that they didn't really tell that story. Not the real story, anyway.

The Final Season takes Norway, Iowa and uses it as a backdrop for pretty generic and cliché-filled sports movie, one that could have come from the same copier that's been churning out "underdog fighting against incredible odds" sports movies for decades. The film is always gently fighting with itself. It wants to be about the little guy battling adversity, but that's not the story of the Norway Tigers. The end of Norway baseball was about greatness being thrown away because the world just doesn't have room for it anymore. The filmmakers brush up against that subject, but they either don't know how to really address it or they can't think beyond their own expectations of what a sports movie must be. Instead, they throw in a cliché-filled subplot of a big city kid moving to the country and learning lessons about life. They do try something different by making that big city kid thoroughly unlikeable for most of the movie, until they flip a magic movie switch and try to turn him into sort of the hero.

I say sort of, because the movie never really figures out who its hero really is. Sometimes it's Powers Boothe as the old leader passing down his wisdom, sometimes it's Sean Astin trying to live up to that legend and sometimes it's the big city kid absorbing wholesome Iowa values. It's only the actors giving such strong performances that keeps you involved as the movie plays Musical Heroes.

The performances are the most appealing thing in The Final Season. Boothe radiates gravity like an old-time movie star. Astin proves once again that if he wasn't 3 and 3/4 inches away from technically being a Little Person, he'd be one of the most sought after actors in Hollywood. He has the kind of decent, personable on screen persona that makes you want to watch him. That he can also act is a nice bonus. Unfortunately, the studios seem to only see him as too small for an action hero and not pretty enough for a leading man. I guess there's no one who remembers the passel of films and the boatloads of money that were made with a short, not terribly attractive guy named Mickey Rooney. It's easy to get a Rooney/Judy Garland vibe in those scenes where Astin acts with Rachel Leigh Cook, who herself looks like a beautiful woman who's been briefly exposed to a mad scientist's shrink ray.

Cook does everything she can with the typically thankless girlfriend role. She could have done a lot more as a state official sent to help sell the school merger to the residents of Norway, but the movie deals with the whole merger issue in a shallow, cartoonish fashion. Instead of engaging with the economic and social realities of small town schools and contracting budgets, it turns a Norway school administrator into a Snidely Whiplash-type villain who does bad things because he's a bad person.

I wish the makers of The Final Season had had the courage Sylvester Stallone had when he made the original Rocky. Despite what you may misremember, Rocky wasn't about an underdog overcoming the odds. It was about the degeneration of the American Dream. Rocky was a guy with talent but he never got the opportunity America is supposed to be all about until it was too late for him to do anything with it. Rocky realizes he can't win the fight and make millions of dollars and live happily ever after. All he wants is to be able to look in the mirror and know he's more than just another "bum from the neighborhood". The original Rocky isn't about being a winner. It's about what it means to not be a loser. That's the sort of bold, creative impulse I wish the makers of The Final Season had reached out for.

But they didn't. What they did is give us a pleasant, family-friendly film about good people trying to do something great. It's a lovable, enjoyable movie…if you don't look hard at it.
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9/10
Famly Great
jamach4 May 2008
Come on people, it is what it is. Show me some where else in the US this has been done. I would have preferred to see someone else in the roles of Kent Stock and Jim Van Scoyc, someone who actually cared about the roles, but from someone who grew up in this town, it was very nice that anyone even bothered. Evans does a super job with the baseball scenes. Let it be for God's sake. If you hate it, don't watch! If you like it watch away. Someone cared enough to let us have our little moment in the sun. Maybe someday, you will have one of your own. We lived through all the highs and lows of baseball in Norway, and we enjoyed it all. It's really a shame that some of the older fans who were so devoted to the teams through the years, were not here to see it. That's the tragedy. Maybe another movie will come out soon you can focus your venom on.
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4/10
The Formula's Getting Tired
sddavis6322 July 2009
It's been done before, with reference to virtually every sport: basketball (Hoosiers and Coach Carter), football (Remember The Titans), hockey (Miracle and Mystery, Alaska), boxing (Rocky), track and field (Chariots Of Fire). The list goes on. This is the baseball version of the "underdog overcomes" formula as the high school baseball team struggles to overcome adversity in its last season before the school closes to win another state championship. Yes, it's inspiring. Yes, it's a true story. All that's true. But the biggest truth? The formula is getting tired! In this one, the Tigers of the high school in little Norway, Iowa face not only the above mentioned adversity, but also a school board that would like them to lose to shut the people up about the dynasty and all that the team means to the town and, to essentially sabotage them, hires a former girls volleyball coach to replace the former legendary coach who led them to title after title. Frankly, it seemed strange to me that the local school board was so willing to jump on board with the state to close the school. That whole tension was where the movie had some potential to break out of the standard formula but didn't really manage to do it. Where the movie was interesting was in its analysis of the place of the school in the life of the small town, and of the implications to the town of closing the school. But there wasn't enough of that analysis. The focus kept going back to the baseball team and its final season. (I know, that's the title, that's the purpose, but that final season wasn't that interesting.) The movie also completely failed to document the evolution of the team. They won their first game, then fell apart, then were suddenly a respectable 17-12, then were suddenly playing for the state championship. It never really seemed clear to me how the team pulled that off.

Basically, this is a tired formula and a rather disappointing movie as a result. 4/10
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