Hokum and maudlin manipulation abound in William Dear’s real-life drama about a team from Monterrey (here depicted as an impoverished Mexican shantytown) that goes on to win the 1957 Little League World Series. The game’s in the books, so no spoiler there — what’s surprising are the poignant undercurrents about race and jingoism.
Cool Papa Bell (Louis Gossett Jr.), a Negro League legend, helps elevate the proceedings above sentimentality as he inspires the underdogs after suffering a humiliating rebuff himself. Clifton Collins Jr., who was flawless as the death-row inmate in Capote, has a lot to carry as the reluctant coach, César, a one-time prospect now facing hard times.
Their road to victory is a bumpy one, but they’ve got an ace in the hole in Jesus, care of a padre played by, of all people, Cheech Marin. It ain’t religion, but the film does knock it over the fence.