If there is a movie about baseball, I will watch it. It doesn’t matter if there are subplots, or even if it is in English, I am the built-in audience. Well, writer-director Joe Mazzello came up with a film that would test my resolve. It’s called “Undrafted” and it is a movie about what might have been – and what the movie itself also might have been. I don’t expect Hitchcock every time I watch a picture, but I do want to be entertained. “Undrafted” comes close, but does not quite make it over the plate.
It’s the story of a ragged bunch of teammates inside the dugout during the ever-crucial league playoff match-up or a meaningless end of the season game. I’m still not sure which it is supposed to be. Bad news has hit, the team stud got passed over in the MLB draft, and everyone knows that the rest of their lives have been waiting until the season ends and the bats get put away.
The visiting team is loaded with ringers, and the D-Backs seem like a grown up version – well older anyway – of the Bad News Bears. A dirty dozen bunch, big on cliches and bad jokes that never really gels into a cohesive group. There are pretty boys in the cast from various tv shows I haven’t watched. The film gets the idiocy that goes on inside the dugout spot on. “Undrafted” wins points for a frank discussion of the way baseball scouts use coded language to evaluate minority prospects. But just when something of substance could develop, it devolves into an attempt at “Animal House,” or god-knows-what.
There’s always a guy that has to make every possible joke about the size of his bat and make overt innuendo about his manhood. There’s the guy that does not quite belong, and the stud who is better than the rest of the team. Philip Winchester is Fotch, the aging vet trying to stay connected the game any way he can. Then there’s Tyler Hoechlin as Dells, the starting pitcher with a rubber arm. And Aaron Tveit as Mazetti: he’s the team’s best player. He’s the guy that went undrafted, giving the film its title. Chace Crawford is the team’s power hitter and resident show-off. Matt Bush is the guy on the team that gets forgotten when the team bus pulls out. Then there’s the rest of the squad, a roster about as memorable as the Teetotalers that Bugs Bunny replaced against the Gashouse Gorillas.
There’s a father-son subplot with Jim Belushi as Mazetti’s dad. The question is, why? Maybe they were going for father and son bonding moments in a base level comedy with some underdog makes good moments? Maybe they just wanted to make crude jokes and play baseball and figured out a way for a film studio to the afternoon in the sun? There’s not a whole lot about “Undrafted” that I liked, pity because I really wanted to enjoy a movie about baseball. What I got to see was swing and a miss.