Knuckleball! (2012) Poster

(2012)

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10/10
'Knuckleball' Is A Four-Star Treat
fenwaynation19 September 2012
When I first heard that a documentary film was coming out about the knuckleball, it seemed a little odd. How would you fill a feature-length movie with an examination of a non-rotating baseball pitch? Well, producers Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg have done it—and in the process created one of the most entertaining sports documentaries in years.

The reason is that it's not just about the knuckleball—it's about the struggles of the very few men who have tried to master it in the big leagues. Just as the pitch itself is unpredictable, so were the careers of Tim Wakefield, R.A. Dickey, Phil Niekro, Charlie Hough and Belmont's own Wilbur Wood. The film focuses on Wakefield and Dickey, but it also tells the tale of the camaraderie among all the knucklers—and the responsibility they all feel to the legacy of the pitch that made their dreams come true.

This is more than a baseball movie, it's a movie about not giving up. As Phil Niekro told Tim Wakefield early in his career, "Accept your losses, but never accept defeat." We recommend this movie highly—four stars!
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8/10
Great sports doc about baseball's true underdogs
michael-palmer-nyc26 April 2012
Knuckleball tells the story of baseball pitchers Tim Wakefield of the Red Sox and R.A. Dickey of the Mets as they go through the travails of the 2011 Major League Baseball season. In the process, viewers gain insight into the mechanics, the lore, and the history of the fluxiest of baseball pitches.

Wakefield in particular comes across as a likable straight-shooter who developed this pitch to salvage his hopes of making it to and staying in the Bigs. Dickey follows in the footsteps of Wake, and seems poised to carry the torch for knucklers into the 21st century. With great interviews and insights from Charlie Hough, Phil Niekro, and Jim Bouton, we learn that knuckleball pitchers are a small, proud fraternity who pass their wisdom down the line to keep the art of the knuckleball alive in an age of flamethrowers and the need for speed.

The art and chaos of the pitch itself lends itself well to the big screen, and for baseball fans and for anyone who loves to root for the underdog, Knuckleball definitely delivers.
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10/10
Beautiful Story Telling
garypaterson27 April 2012
Was lucky enough to catch this at the world premier free screening at the Tribeca Film Festival last Saturday.

Really enjoyed its interesting and heart warming story telling about the rare baseball bread of the knuckleball pitcher. Both looking back and looking forward the film brought the story of this select band of pitchers beautifully to the screen.

R.A Dickey... such a class guy and there is something quite touching that he is the only knuckleballer left in the MLB. And you couldn't wish for a better champion of the 'freak' pitch.

Would happily watch it again. Congrats to all those involved.
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7/10
Weirdly Profound
joncheskin1 October 2016
Knuckleball! is a sports documentary that follows the lives of Tim Wakefield and RA Dickey, two knuckleball pitchers, during the 2011 baseball season. More than this, however, it is a story about the strange life of being a knuckleball pitcher, and goes into some depth, about the history and interesting personalities of knuckleballers over the years.

Knuckleball! is a movie that seems like it should be boring, but it is actually a wonderful human story of following a dream and finding improbable success. Knuckleballers, as the movie explains, are people borne of desperation--they see the end of their careers before them and conclude that, rather than quitting, they have to do something. They find their solution through a practice that at once gains them acceptance but also turns them into something of an outcast. We root for them because we appreciate people who can carve an unconventional path, and in watching them we feel like maybe we imperfect people have a chance also to make it in this world.

As a result, this movie is weirdly profound. For all of you who find the alternate path, this movie is for you. Watch it and cheer on the everyman, as he floats it up to the plate at 60 miles per hour and watches the world's most intimidating sluggers go up in smoke.
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4/10
Not bad, about 15 minutes too long.
salmon6226 July 2013
This is an interesting documentary for baseball fans. Much of the iconic attributions to baseball's knuckle-ballers has been made before by sportscasters during games, but this is fun to watch nonetheless. The movie focuses on two pitchers in 2011, Tim Wakefield, and R.A. Dickey. I believe Dickey is still pitching in 2013 for the Blue Jays.

There is a tendency in documentary filmmaking to include too much footage, and "Knuckleball" is no different. The documentary jumps back and forth in time rather than follow a chronological order. The same crowd shots are used multiple times. There is footage of the pitchers driving around in cars. There is a lot of game footage of the two pitchers which becomes tiresome after an hour. Just when you think there is going to be some breakthrough or change of pace in the film, it lapses back into footage from the mid 2000's. There is excessive coverage of the Red Sox-Yankees series.

This movie would be good for people who aren't familiar with pitching styles or the history of the famous knuckle-ballers in baseball.

There are entertaining interviews with Niekro, Hough, and Wilbur Wood.

In short, this documentary is about 15 minutes too long. It is a good bet for serious baseball fans.
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8/10
The Knuckler
zkonedog6 March 2017
The knuckleball is an enigma in the sport of baseball. Only a handful of pitchers in the 100+ year history of the game have thrown it well enough to make a career out of it. This documentary focuses on two knuckleballers in particular (Tim Wakefield & R.A. Dickey) in trying to shed some light on both the physical and mental side of being a baseball oddity.

There are basically two distinct themes running through this doc:

1. A history of the pitch, so to speak, in which former knucklers like Charlie Hough, Wilbur Wood, Tom Candiotti, and Phil Niekro are interview regarding their thoughts on their bread-and-butter pitch.

2. A narrower focus on Wakefield & Dickey, delving into more the psychological toughness needed to soldier on despite being label a baseball "freak", of sorts.

This is a great little documentary for all baseball fans (especially those who vividly remember Wakefield's long career or Dickey's magical run with the Mets) and is about as unique as the fluttering pitch itself (I can't remember any other documentary covering similar material). It is lighthearted, emotional, informative, and serious all at the same time.

The only reason I can't give it the full five stars? I wish it would have focused on the personal stories of Wakefield/Dickey even a bit more. Their interactions with the "old gang" of knuckleballers is great, don't get me wrong, but there are WAY too many slo-mo shoots of fluttering knucklers used simply to fill time/space. The personal stories would have been compelling enough to explore even more fully.

Overall, though, this is a fun little baseball documentary that is very professionally produced and doesn't try to "ruffle feathers" by making outrageous statements for publicity's sake. It is clear that the filmmakers were truly interested in and inspired by their creation and that fact shows in the final product.
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8/10
Catchers are the unsung heroes here . . .
tadpole-596-9182567 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers
. . . as KNUCKLEBALL! gives them extremely short shrift, relegating several backstops to a one-minute, sound-bite montage, with no helpful hints on how to catch these 58 to 78 m.p.h. freakish "whiffle balls." Even less time is devoted to the fact that Sabermetics have made the knuckleball obsolete. As this documentary confesses, the knuckleball's place is for the fill-in, "throwaway" innings, when a game already sports an unreachable run differential. During the 2014 season, for instance, the crowning knuckleballer achievement came at Detroit's Comerica Park, when rookie Tigers manager Brad Ausmus sent in a random Malibu utility infielder--Danny Worth--to pitch in a game for the first time since he was a seven-year-old against a Texas Rangers team which was ahead by 10 or 15 runs TWO NIGHTS IN A ROW! (MLB has no "mercy rule"). Sure, Worth got six outs, posting a 4.50 Earned Run Average in the process (which was BETTER than the Tigers regular bull pen's cumulative ERA year-to-date). But former Yankees manager Joe Torre (featured in KNUCKLEBALL!) never would have pulled a stunt like Ausmus', and apparently used his high office to rake the Tigers over the coals for using this "trick pitch" against such a respectable team as the Rangers. The Tigers were forced to send Worth packing back to Malibu the following week. The knuckleball is now DEAD, as far as MLB is concerned (and only R.A. Dickey doesn't know this).
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interesting and well developed film
oscar-3515 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
*Spoiler/plot- Knuckelball, 2012. Follows the odd throwing pattern of Major League pitchers.

*Special Stars- Tim Wakefield.

*Theme- Practice makes perfect.

*Trivia/location/goofs- Documentary.

*Emotion- An interesting and well developed film covering this interesting subject for baseball fans. Enjoyable and tells the human costs and pain of using this pitching style in the leagues. Shows an unvarnished and truthful account of the tricks, gimmicks, strategy, and problems to players if they wish to use this very special and deadly pitching asset against major league hitters.
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8/10
For baseball fans and movie fans everywhere
soccerman19608 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
If you like baseball, you'll like this movie. If you like small films, you'll like this movie. If you like likable people, you'll like this movie. Knuckleball is a wonderful little film.

The drama of Wakefield's triumph in game 5 of the 2004 American League Championship Series is the only thing I'd wish were more prominently treated here. (Enduring through THREE passed balls in the 13th inning, with no runs allowed? Epic!) But what stands is a warmly entertaining homage to the best of baseball, the best of baseball players, and the best benefit of simple human faith.

Most rewarding are the extended conversations with Phil Niekro and Charlie Hough throughout, and the additional conversations with Jim Bouton, Wilbur Wood, and other past practitioners of baseball's "freak pitch". Interspersing the intimate and heartfelt conversations with R. A. Dickey and Tim Wakefield with game highlights and historical footage puts things in even better emotional perspective.

If only the filmmakers had opportunity to highlight Dickey's transcendent 2012 season, and not just Wakefield's retirement press conference from this year. The torch hasn't just been passed, it's shining brighter than anyone could have predicted. Wake's 1992 Rookie of the Year pitching performance was great--but Dickey's most recent has been phenomenal. All because this tight-knit and loyal fraternity of pitchers has selflessly shared everything they know so that someone else might continue on ahead and do the same for those who come after. The movie does a wonderful job of capturing the joy of it, and the wonder.

A thoroughly enjoyable film.
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