Bookshelf movie review: Where Hope Grows

December 14, 2015’ll watch anything that has to do with baseball at least once, regardless of the reviews or that it has no “star-power” actors. Some are dreadful from any number of angles (writing, acting, theme), so I didn’t have great expectations for Where Hope Grows, a 2014 release that certainly didn’t come to any of the theaters in my neck of the woods. IMDB gave it a 6.5 out of 10; Rotten Tomatoes deemed it worthy of just a 46 percent rating, although 83 percent of the audience liked this earnest offering.

The IMDB Blurb:

A baseball player whose professional career was cut short due to his personal problems is suddenly awakened and invigorated by a young-man with Down syndrome who works at the local grocery store.

This differs quite a bit from the Netflix jacket blurb which states the player suffered from chronic anxiety attacks which brought his career to a premature end. I wonder what movie they were watching because there’s absolutely nothing in the film to indicate that assertion. The character, Calvin Campbell, nicely played by Kristoffer Polaha in this 90-minute teaching moment is, in fact, an alcoholic.

Campbell, a former member of the Detroit Tigers who, like Carlos Beltran in 2006, took a called third strike to end a crucial game, lives with his 17-year-old daughter in a small town in Kentucky(?) And when I say small I mean the type where everyone knows everyone else and the local cop seems to work 24/7. Part of the tension between father and child is that Campbell apparently became a father while still in high school and wants her to make wise choices.

Campbell’s drinking problem loses him the respect of his daughter (where’s the mom in all this? No mention of her at all. Did she die? Are the parents divorced and this lush has sole custody?) and he finally starts to question his lifestyle after meeting Produce, a cheerful young man with Down syndrome who works at the local supermarket in, you guessed it, the produce section. David DeSanctis, in his professional acting debut, is quite affecting as Produce, whose cheery disposition begins to have a positive impact on Campbell.

Of course there are the usual lessons to be learned, such as “people with Down syndrome are just like us!” and not calling Produce a “retard,” as Campbell and his daughter warn others in their circle. In one scene, the now-reformed Campbell tells the African-American grocery store manager that using the R-word is just as offensive as the N-word.

This redemption story is pretty rote until the end, which is quite shocking and about which I won’t go into any detail. Sure, it’s all a tad hokey, but I would suggest you give it a chance.


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