It just might take a miracle.
Magnolia Home Entertainment – The Yankles (2009) is an underdog sports comedy about an orthodox yeshiva baseball team who found out, that playing by books written about baseball wasn’t enough. This awkwardly comedic tale is directed by David Brooks and co-written with his brother Zev Brooks. It is as if I have come across many sports films for review as of late but not one quite like this one. The story is about a group of men who wish to play baseball and the tedious events that go on around an Orthodox Jewish Rabbinical college. However, the tale lingered as a strict premise–being too careful in representing the importance of cultural religious acceptance, and sacrificing the true potential of a great story.
Charlie Jones (Brian Wimmer), a down and out ex-baseball player, was sentenced to jail time for DUI and public drunkenness. Of course, he loses his pro-baseball contract when he is sentenced to a brief stent in jail. At the same time, his wife Deborah (Susanne Sutchy) decides to leave him. Eventually, Charlie is released from prison early for good behavior with community service. Lucky for him, an opportunity isn’t out of reach.
Charlie is approached by Elliot (Michael Buster) who has to find someone kosher to coach the Orthodox Jewish Rabbinical college baseball team, and Charlie agrees to do so–with a few minor restrictions. He much adheres to the strict traditions of Jewish Orthodoxy–he cannot swear nor can the team wear traditional league baseball uniforms, and they cannot play a game on Saturdays or religious holidays. With all the restrictions aside, the team can actually play baseball.
Take me out to the ballgame.
There is a love story in there as well; Charlie lost his wife when he went to prison. He again tries to win her heart, but she refuses to involve herself with him because she is committed to her faith, and since Charlie isn’t Jewish, she is no longer interested in perusing a relationship with him. Their relationship takes on a more positive perspective, he learns to respect Deborah’s faith and devotion to her religion, eventually turns to Rabbinical studies himself. The Yankles is a feel good film, although it suffers by not going beyond the rigid ideological aspects. The movie actually lacks significant content; there could have been more coaching opportunities with Charlie and his team–it barely looked as if he coached the team at all. He more or less riles them up during exercise, and briefly during the game.
Also, there truly wasn’t any conflict in the film. Granted, The Yankles is a comedy and the film has its moments, yet it wasn’t easily distinguished as a comedy or as a drama, and it seemed that the script did all it could do to avoid it. I looked forward to Charlie at least acting as the films deus ex machina by bringing “life” to the uncompromisable. It ventured more on the side of philosophical theology, and neglected the huge potential for any meaningful, dramatic aspect that would have utilized the unused character personalities, and create situations where more of the sports genre could have been used; however, it didn’t and there is no use in elaborating the details as to why not.
In the big inning…
Source: The Yankles