Inspired by the true story of the Norway High Tigers, who earned 20 straight Iowa state baseball championships before their school lost its funding, “The Final Season” is aggressively earnest in its approach, and littered with every cliché known in the sports universe. Clearly, it represents a labor of love for Sean Astin, who produces and stars, and his passion for the game cannot be questioned.
Still, a confection this sickly sweet is sometimes difficult to swallow.
Astin plays Kent Stock, an aspiring banker who takes a short-term position as assistant coach at Norway because, well, it’s Norway, the hardball capital of Iowa.
Legendary head coach Jim Van Scoyoc (Powers Boothe) approves.
“The baseball tradition in Norway is as rich as the Iowa spirit,” the grizzled vet solemnly tells his young apprentice. “We grow ballplayers like corn.”
There is plenty of corn in “The Final Season.” Once the big-city bad apple (Michael Angarano) arrives for a much-needed dose of small-town wisdom, it is only a matter of time before he ditches his trademark cigarettes for a spot on the starting nine.
Meanwhile, Van Scoyoc is ousted from the team by bottom-line-driven bureaucrats. Can Stock lead Norway to the big game? Can Superman fly?
There is nothing wrong with “The Final Season” that a sharper script couldn’t fix. It’s a rousing story, transformed into an all-too-tidy fairy tale by a screenplay rooted in family values that somehow ring false.
That hardly takes away from Norway High’s achievements, or its place in history as one of Iowa’s most beloved baseball institutions. But perhaps it deserves a better, more honest movie than this.
The Final Season **
Starring Sean Astin, Powers Boothe, Rachael Leigh Cook, James Gammon, Tom Arnold
Written by Art D’Alessandro, James Grayford
Directed by David Evans
Running time: 1 hour, 53 minutes