Advent Film Group, who distributed the film Hero, was founded in order to uphold Christian values and teach young aspiring filmmakers how to make movies. It’s fair to say that indie movies don’t only belong to those tree-hugging libbers out west, but to God conscious Libertarians as well. Advent also produced the film Come What May, which follows Christian students who challenge Roe v. Wade during a Moot Court at a Christian college and does so with an astonishing amount of fervor and Christian values.
Although liberal filmmakers certainly set agenda’s for their films, Manny Edwards, who directed both Hero and Come What May, set’s an agenda on a very basic level—honor thy father, do what’s right and protect family values. Hero does this in a less in your face way which follows a workaholic father who comes home only to find out that his wife is dying and his son hates him. In an attempt to get closer to his son David (Justin Myles), Joe (Burgess Jenkins) helps him coach a little league team. The kids suck, have a bad attitude and come from broken homes. Yes ladies and gentlemen I give you the Christian Bad News Bears, a movie that was made well two times (first in 1976 staring Walter Matthau and Tatum O’Neal and in 2005 with Billy Bob Thornton), but the third time most definitely is not the charm.
The bones of this film are good, one of the storylines follows a father who is locked up, but the meat is too overdone—we get a Hallmark Hall of Fame vibe with sentimental music, over-the-top acting and a mountain of clichés—Joe manages to start his own league in a matter of days, they call the fat kid on the team “Pudge” (what a concept) and the team goes from sucking to kind of sucking to . . . you know how this goes. Imagine every sports movie ever made, but this time with no edge.
The main difference here is that Joe’s plan for improving the team involves getting the fathers on board, going as far as the local penitentiary to visit a father who is in jail and the warden whose son also plays on the team. Joe, who is obviously attempting to make up for lost time, is also trying to reconnect with his own son in the process.
Despite the fact that the film is mainly catering to a Christian audience, wouldn’t it be nice if it catered to everyone? Isn’t that what Christianity aims to do, spread the word? The films production value far surpasses many indie films, but the corny dialogue and acting (with the exception of Myles who has a substantial acting career) help us forget about any semblance of a dynamic plot. Field of Dreams projected a similar value based upon a spiritual intuition, the importance of the father and son bond, but did so in a far more powerful way.
Field of Dreams was also in dangerous spiritual territory, with illusions of grandeur, ghosts of baseballs past and that measly voice coming from the fields, but escaped uneven terrain by presenting us with dreams that were seemingly shattered—baseball as a gift that was returned for possibly something greater, saving a life and having that last pitch with your father.
While Hero attempts to remind us of the importance of family, particularly the role that father’s play in the family unite, it ignores the nuances of life. With its glossy and safe take on the sports genre (the locked-up father manages to see his son’s final game in person, be it in his cuffs and an Orange suit) we don’t really get anything from this film which separates it from elementary storytelling. I want to celebrate any film that attempts to work outside of the studio system, especially films with good intentions, but this film has nothing interesting to say.
Hero comes out on DVD on September 16th