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Movie Review


MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language and some violence

Reviewed by: Douglas Downs

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teen to Adult
Comedy, Drama
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Relevant Issues
Keanu Reeves and DeWayne Warren in Hardball
Featuring: Keanu Reeves, Diane Lane, Michael Jordan, D B Sweeney, John Hawkes
Director: Brian Robbins
Producer: Michael Tollin, Mike Tollin, Tina Nides, Sean Daniels
Distributor: Paramount Pictures

The word “hardball” has long been associated with the word “tough”. The idea that life is coming at you fast and it is not going to be easy. “Hardball” is a movie that tries to be tough. The inner-city projects of Chicago are a tough world. I have worked in those projects. I have also worked in the inner cities of D.C. and Cleveland. It is a difficult world for our nation’s children. As a substitute teacher in one inner-city school system, I had children as young as 7 threaten to find a 9mm and blow me away. I’ve experienced lock-downs where the teachers have to lock their classroom doors and keep the students quite. This was all because an enraged adult was on campus with a weapon.

These children are starving for positive role models and acceptance. They live in constant fear of gangs. Mothers live with the dread that their babies will become a part of the darkness (created by the violent activity of the gangs). The vast majority of these kids go through life fatherless. “Hardball” will give you a peek into this very-real world.

I’m still torn by my response to this film. It is not a feel-good movie like “Remember the Titans”. The faces of the children reminded me of my visits to their world. I liked the idea behind the “Hardball” story, but I did not care for some of the plot points. Let me break it down for you.

My first warning is to stress that this is not a kid’s movie! Originally rated “R” and trimmed slightly to get its “PG-13” rating, don’t be fooled by any film trailers. Directors, producers, and studios are satisfied with this process of editing. Why? DVD. They can add the material back in on the DVD version and still keep the final rating. The fine print just says, “Some material on this film has not been rated”. A bogus disclaimer because the deleted material was rated. But even though this is not a children’s movie, the acting by children is outstanding! They truly steal the show. Their language and attitude is very offensive, but it is also very realistic. Most of the inner-city children that I have met do talk trash. They want to appear tough and that is the language of their world.

Second, the story is about a down-on-his-luck compulsive gambler named Conor O'Neill (Keanu Reeves). His debts to bookies and loan sharks have become life threatening. Conor frequently drinks and is always lighting up a cigarette (free advertising for the tobacco industry). He is so desperate for money that he takes a job from a friend in a bank—a job to coach a little league team called the Kekambas from the Cabrini Green housing projects. The pay is $500 dollars. It doesn’t take much of a mathematician to realize this amount won’t even make a dent in Conor’s debt. In fact, John Gatins’ (“Summer Catch”) screenplay has a lot of holes in it. I’m not sure how close it is to Daniel Coyne’s novel, but I do know there are several other loopholes in this film. I’m not a scene spoiler, but let’s just say Conor does get a chance to redeem himself.

Diane Lane in “Hardball” The Kekambas are a reinvention of the Bad News Bears. They are anything but a team and struggle with all the fundamentals. That all changes for the team when they go out for pizza (I wish I had known that when I coached T-Ball). The desire to play baseball does provide a motivation for the team to read. This is where Coach Conor meets Elizabeth Wilkes (Diane Lane), the team’s teacher. She is the love interest for our down-and-out hero. This part of the story is not over done.

The overall message of the film is positive. The team’s coach does manage to find redemption before the end (of course). I also liked the work behind the camera when the team attends a Cubs game.

The language as stated is very foul. There is a sort of theme song the team rallies behind that talks about a man saying he wants a woman and she should be having his baby, Baby.

The presence of gangs is fearful. I personally struggled with the possibility that our inner-city problems may have been exploited in this film. Yes, the story did touch me and I would feel better if the profits from the film were going back to Chicago’s projects.

Can I recommend this film? The script had its weaknesses, the story contained many other negative elements, but the chance for our teens to witness inner-city life can be used for good. Perhaps an inner-city project for teen youth groups can be one of the unforeseen positive impacts of “Hardball”.

    Check out the Center for Student Missions ( | Email: of which I have had the privilege of working with in Chicago. My 15 year old son, so moved by his work with CSM that he now spends two days a month as a volunteer in a nearby inner city ministry, worked with them in DC. Another quality Christian organization to check out is Inner City Impact ( | Email:

Viewer Comments
Positive—I really enjoyed this movie. There was some offensive language, but to tell you the truth, I’d rather hear offensive language than see a movie with all the other garbage that “Hollywood” seems to almost always sneak into their films in one way or another. If you are looking for a movie that is humbling, captivating, and worth adding to your movie collection, then go see “Hardball”.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4½]
—Danae, teen
I would have rated this movie a lot higher if the little boys had not used bad language every time their mouths where open. Besides the constant use of bad language it was a pretty good movie. I thought by the previews that this movie was a comedy but it is NOT! It has funny parts but I found it very sad. I would not recommend going to see this movie if you are depressed. Also please don’t think this is a kids movie and take your little boys to see it. It deals with gangs and gambling. So I rate this movie very offensive.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 2]
—EAM, age 14
Thinking it was a modern “Bad News Bears,” my wife took our baseball playing 8 year old to this movie. We feel that a major reason for a possible R-rating has been left out of all your reviews, but it is an important one if you have kids. NOTE: End of Story Giveaway coming up, but it is important to read if you were considering taking “kids”. The particular scene that made our 8 year old cry, and he never cries, was when one of the kids finds he has a bullet through him, and, yes, he succumbs to it. Neither the language nor this scene are for the squeemish or young at heart. As a parent we found this extremely offensive. Further proof that the movie industry cannot be trusted to police themselves… Otherwise it was a good film.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 3½]
Raphael Vera, age 38
I actually enjoyed this film. The language was bad but it was pretty clean.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 2½]
—KE, age teen
Yes, Hardball does accurately depict the mannerisms, language, and problems faced by inner city kids, but this is hardly a good reason to watch this film unless this is your sole reason for watching it.

The rest of the film is simply incredible! It is very contrived showing once again that Hollywood can work any number of miracles they want on celluloid, reality notwithstanding. Contrived “redemption” is meaningless, and even damaging to the psyche of the viewers, since the manner in which it is obtained cannot happen in real life.

Film’s like “Hardball” fail to provide real causes (e.g. finding Jesus, acknowledging and the working of the Holy Spirit in one’s life) that bring about meaningful life changing effects… One incredulous contrived scene is where Keanu’s star pitcher, the one who by listening to this profane song over and over while pitching is enabled to pitch unbelievably great, but pitches terrible when the opposing coach and the league President make the boy stop wearing the walkman while playing in accordance with little league rules. This gives Keanu his big dramatic opportunity to drag the league president before his kids demanding he explain to them why one boy can’t play baseball who is too young under little league rules to play with 12 year olds, and why the pitcher can’t wear his walkman while pitching, “Why can’t these boys just play ball and have fun and not be harassed by you prejudiced adults and all your rules?” Keanu basically states. I’ll tell you why Keanu and Hollywood, Little League wants players to play with kids their own age for THEIR own safety and for THEIR maximum enjoyment of the game, and Jewelry and other physical objects like a walkman are not allowed to be worn during play so.
—Arthur Biele, age 49

I wouldn’t go along by saying this is a clean movie because there is a lot of language. Too many to count. And yes, folks, there is an f-word in this movie. But the movie is very real and touching and I recommend it to adults who are looking for a moving movie to go see.
My Ratings: [Average / 3½]
—Matt, age 21

Hardball is an extremely offensive movie that definitely should have been rated “R”. After just 15 minutes of watching this movie, I had to get up and leave the theater (among others). In just the few minutes that I saw, there were too many profanities to even count. These words that would make a sailor blush, were coming out of the mouths of the children on the baseball team. Also, there were crude sexual references made by these same children that looked to be around 10 years old. That was not what I was expecting when I walked into the movie. It is being advertised as the “Bad News Bears” for the 21st century. I felt terrible that people had taken children in the theater. Not only do I recommend not wasting your money on this film, I urge Christians to strongly warn their family, friends, and co-workers about this movie.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive / 2]
—Susan, age 29
This movie was incredibly good! It was so REAL! The story touched me… it made me laugh and cry at the same time. I loved how it so accurately it portrayed the kids living in slums. This movie had very little offensive material in it. No sex or nudity (which is VERY RARE nowdays) and any love portrayed was just a quick kiss near the end of the film. They didn’t add a soppy love story subplot, which was very refreshing. There was plenty of swearing on the kids part, but it wasn’t used out of context. You see, I’ve played basketball with children in the ghetto, and that is EXACTLY how they talk to each other! It was SO REAL! This was just a very touching movie and one of the best I’ve seen this year!
My Ratings: [Average / 5]
—Drew McClure, age 19