From the disturbingly offensive “Not Cool” to the maelstrom of profound loathing in “Expelled”, my experience with films starring social media stars can only be described as calamitous. With that said, “The Outfield” is an uneasy calm after the storm.
At the beginning of the film, the clichés and tropes shatter your field of vision as if caused by a curveball hit by the Great Bambino. Jack Sanders, played by the capable Nash Grier is a baseball player and possibly one of the great ball players to come from his small midwestern town – although it looks oddly similar to Orange County.
Cameron Dallas graces the screen as Frankie Payton, one of Jack’s childhood friends. Unlike his performance in “Expelled”, Dallas shows a better understanding of acting and in this film shows a sensitive side to the goofy persona that he is known for on both Vine and YouTube. Frankie’s future is not at all clear, but he is the playboy of the group, and the filmmakers are putting Dallas’ good looks to use.
Disney veteran Joey Bragg is the third member of the group, and Bragg adapts his stand-up experience to benefit this role. The result is an excellent performance. Together these three are the elite of their baseball team, the Owls.
Unlike the other films, performance by the actors was not an issue, which goes on to strengthen my theory that a good script will always produce a good performance no matter how inexperienced the cast. The script for “Outfield” will never be considered for an Oscar, but that’s because it does not strive to do so.
Instead, it strives to simply tell the story – no matter how stale – of small town athletes and their own personal struggles. Like “Friday Night Lights” before it – both the TV series and the 2004 film – baseball is the least of these character’s worries.
Though top schools are looking at Jack, he is also an artist and a fairly admirable one at that. His art teacher sees true potential in him and recommends that he apply to Cal Arts, which he seriously begins to consider. Because this story has been told before, allow me a spoiler. Jack must choose between his passion and baseball even though it is possible to do both.
Unlike other films in this genre, the cinematography is attractive, and the lighting creates a mood that gives the film some character.
But as far as a coming-of-age baseball movie goes, nothing can really beat “The Sandlot”. The good news, however, is that “The Outfield” doesn’t try to be like “The Sandlot”. Instead, the movie stands on its own.
“The Outfield” is available to download exclusively on iTunes.