Drama, Sports

Pastime (1991)

0 Comments 28 March 2012

Studio: Echo Bridge Entertainment/Miramax

Theatrical Release: August 23, 1991

DVD Release: May 8, 2012

Director: Robin B. Armstrong

PG

Review by James Klein

I still remember seeing Pastime opening night at the theater. Back in the day, a movie fan like myself would have to wait until Friday and look in a newspaper to see which films would be opening up and where. As I looked at all the summer movies, the advertisement for Pastime caught my attention. I had never heard of this film coming out nor knew the actors. However, it was a baseball movie and being a fan of America’s favorite pastime I knew I had to see this. While none of my friends were interested, I convinced my parents to go see this with me (the PG rating helped). Now, I will argue with anyone over this opinion but Pastime is one of the best baseball films ever made. I thought so back in 1991 and seeing it again after all of these years, my opinion hasn’t changed.

The movie takes place in a small centralCaliforniatown in 1957. Roy Dean is a veteran minor league baseball relief pitcher whose big dream of being back in the majors is quickly fading. However, Roy Dean is an optimist and just an all around nice fella. He may know when other players poke fun at him but he lets it all roll off his back and still offers to go out with any player after a game for a beer, with him buying the first round. When 17 year old pitcher Tyrone Debray comes aboard, most of the team players pay him no mind but still don’t go out of their way to make him feel at home, except for Roy Dean. Roy Dean takes Tyrone under is wing and teaches him all about pitching and the rules of the game. And that is the heart of this film. Friendship and baseball.

While movies such as Field of Dreams, The Natural, and Bull Durham have moments involving romance or any plot device that takes the viewer away from the sport for a moment, Pastime eats, breathes, and loves its baseball. While Roy Dean finally asks the pretty bartender out on a date to a party held at the teams owner’s house, the romance between the two is mostly friendship. Two older people who have no one in their lives but enjoy each other’s company. The romance in Pastime is between Roy Dean and the game. Can Roy Dean and baseball continue to be in each other’s lives as he grows older?

Maybe my favorite moment in Pastime is when during a game, the opposing team hits one of their batters. The manager (Noble Willingham) yells for Tyrone to do the same to the next batter he faces. Terrified and nervous, Tyrone says he can’t do that as he could kill a person with his fastball. Now, one would expect Roy Dean to stick up for his young protégé but instead he tells Tyrone he has to do it, its the unwritten rule of the game. And sure enough Tyrone hits the next batter and a bench clearing brawl takes place.  It’s unpredictable moments like this that make Pastime such a great film. One would also expect that since the film takes place in 1957 and Tyrone is black, race would soon become the centerpiece of the plot, its real theme. It’s never brought up except for one off color remark by one of the antagonistic baseball players on the team. Race is not important here and I applaud the writer and director for staying away from such clichés.

Pastime would have been a failure had it not been for its two leads: William Russ and Glenn Plummer. Both actors work so well together and bring such emotion to their characters that I couldn’t imagine a different actor in these roles. I also enjoyed Jeffrey Tambor’s small role as the team’s owner who is sick and tired of watching his failing baseball team. As far as I know, this is Robin B. Armstrong’s only directorial film. I am unsure as to why but I wish he would come out of hiding and direct again.

EchoBridge’s new DVD looks just fine. It’s aspect ratio of 1:85 looks good and while I would love to see this movie on blu ray someday, the DVD will do for now. The out of print DVD that was released originally had no special features on its disc and neither does this DVD. However, for some unknown reason, the cover of the DVD has changed and instead of Tyrone being on the cover of the DVD with Roy Dean, there is a dog with a baseball in its mouth. What??? There is no dog in this movie at all! Why the cover change? Who the hell is this dog? Maybe now’s a good time to bring up race, hmmm?

Many people have never heard of Pastime, let alone seen the film. This is a shame. It truly is a great baseball film and its downbeat ending will have even the most manly man tear up. If you are looking forward to opening day as much as I am, this is the perfect film to celebrate it with.

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