The Final Season

The high school baseball team in tiny Norway, Iowa, won 20 state championships by the time the school was closed in 1991, which makes it a strange candidate for an underdog sports drama. But screenwriters James Grayford and Art D'Alessandro manage to wrestle this true story into the genre's rigid formula, stressing the fact that Kent Stock (Sean Astin), who coached the team in its last season, was an unproven quantity. This takes place in the same sort of pathologically sports-obsessed hamlet as Friday Night Lights, though in contrast to that movie's grim honesty there's enough heartland schmaltz here to embarrass John Mellencamp. Remarkably, the movie rights itself once the actual season begins, focusing on game strategy more than the usual heart-stopping pep talks. David Mickey Evans directed; with Powers Boothe, Rachel Leigh Cook, and Tom Arnold. PG, 113 min.

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